This animation shows how NICER scans the sky and highlights the mission’s main features. | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA X-Ray Navigation System Aims to Be a Galactic GPS for Space Exploration

The navigation system uses x-ray light emitted from pulsars the same way global positioning systems use atomic clocks, which could eliminate the need for costly ground-based guidance systems.

This illustration shows the NICER mission at work aboard the International Space Station. | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
NICER’s mirror assemblies concentrate X-rays onto silicon detectors to gather data that probes the interior makeup of neutron stars, including those that appear to flash regularly, called pulsars. | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Keith Gendreau