Navigating in space is a team effort. Most navigation for spacecraft exploring the solar system happens on the ground.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, directs many of those voyages. The following five groups of specialists work together to model the ideal mission and then track the spacecraft once it is underway.
Calculates the positions of astronomical objects at predicted times.
Orbit Determination Analysts
Study radio transmissions and images from cameras to determine the spacecraft’s current location.
Plan propulsive maneuvers to keep the spacecraft on the correct flight path.
Radiometric Tracking Team
Assesses techniques for acquiring and improving the accuracy of radio-based measurements of the spacecraft’s velocity, location, and angle relative to Earth.
Plot the most efficient path for the spacecraft.