J. Fidalgo, S. Melis, A. Cezón, C. Prajanu, F.J. Mata, M. Azaola, GMV, Spain; C. Andreopoulos, C. Barry, J. Tena Vidal, M. Roda, University of Liverpool, UK; F.-C. Grec, ESA - ESTEC, Directorate of Navigation; L. Mendes, ESA - ESAC, Directorate of Science

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Abstract:

Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, nearly massless, travel at speeds near the speed of light and are electrically neutral. Neutrinos can be generated through man-made sources like nuclear reactors and particle accelerators or by natural sources like the sun and other celestial bodies. Neutrinos only interact via the weak force and gravity. Since gravitational interaction is extremely weak and the weak force has a very short range, neutrinos can travel long distances unimpeded through matter, reaching places inaccessible for example to GNSS signals. Because of this characteristic different activities have been undertaken in the past by different research organizations, including NASA and Universities, with the goal of understanding and validating the use of neutrinos in communication or PNT applications. The main objective of this project is to sketch an early high-level design of a Neutrino PNT mission and analyze its feasibility for certain applications for which there are no other PNT technologies available, or if there are, they are too costly or provide poor performances. This high-level preliminary concept proposes Cyclotrons or Linear Accelerators based on the physical process Pion Decay at Rest as neutrino sources. For detecting such isotropic neutrino fluxes user equipment must be composed of a high-performance clock synchronized with the system, a detector and possibly additional sensors such as IMU. Preliminary trade-offs highlighted that submarine navigation could represent the primary driver behind the neutrino PNT mission. A feasibility analysis of the recommended system option is performed based on simulations for determining the neutrino detection rate and on a PNT tool to estimate the PNT performances. Although the submarine navigation application is not feasible with current technology, it could be realized with some important but reasonable progress in source and neutrino detector technology. Studying concepts for miniaturization of neutrino detectors, which at the same time provide acceptable detection rates, is an important key recommendation of this project.