Draper Lab inertial stellar compass in first space flight

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., 6 Jan. 2007. Draper Laboratory's inertial stellar compass (ISC) is now fully operational on board the TacSat-2 spacecraft, representing the first use of a MEMS gyro in a complete spacecraft attitude determination system.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., 6 Jan. 2007.Draper Laboratory's Inertial Stellar Compass (ISC) is now fully operational on board the TacSat-2 spacecraft, representing the first use of a MEMS gyro in a complete spacecraft attitude determination system. TacSat-2 was launched on December 16 from Wallops Flight Facility located at Wallops Island, Va.

The ISC combines a star camera and MEMS gyros with a microprocessor to provide a full 3-axis attitude determination system in a low-power (3.6 watt) and low-mass (2.9 kg) package, less than one-half the power and mass of conventional systems. It was developed at Draper Laboratory and utilizing Draper's MEMS Tuning Fork Gyro package.

Following basic spacecraft commissioning activities, the ISC was first turned on December 27; two days of preliminary functional tests show the instrument to be working well. The autonomous, self-initializing instrument has required only power and an occasional clock update from the host spacecraft.

The ISC initializes upon startup, acquires and identifies stars from its own star catalog, and uses its "lost in space" algorithms to determine the direction in which it is pointing.

The ISC development was funded by NASA's New Millennium Program (NMP), which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The TacSat-2 spacecraft was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and is operated out of the AFRL command center at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, N.M.

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