We developed a 3D spherical navigator (SNAV) echo technique that can measure rigid body motion in all six degrees of freedom simultaneously by sampling a spherical shell in k-space. 3D rotations of an imaged object simply rotate the data on this shell and can be detected by registration of k-space magnitude values. 3D translations add phase shifts to the data on the shell and can be detected with a weighted least-squares fit to the phase differences at corresponding points. MRI pulse sequences were developed to study k-space sampling strategies on such a shell. Data collected with a computer-controlled motion phantom with known rotational and translational motions were used to evaluate the technique. The accuracy and precision of the technique depend on the sampling density. Roughly 2000 sample points were necessary for accurate detection to within the error limits of the motion phantom when using a prototype time-intensive sampling method. This number of samples can be captured in an approximately 27-ms double excitation SNAV pulse sequence with a 3D helical spiral trajectory. Preliminary results with the helical SNAV are encouraging and indicate that accurate motion measurement suitable for retrospective or prospective correction should be feasible with SNAV echoes. Magn Reson Med 47:32–41, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.