Saturday, 31 August 2013


Gyroscopes can be very perplexing objects because they move in peculiar ways and even seem to defy gravity. These special properties make ­gyroscopes extremely important in everything from your bicycle to the advanced navigation system on the space shuttle. A typical airplane uses about a dozen gyroscopes in everything from its compass to its autopilot. The Russian Mir space station used 11 gyroscopes to keep its orientation to the sun, and the Hubble Space Telescope has a batch of navigational gyros as well.

Uses of Gyroscopes
The effect of all this is that, once you spin a gyroscope, its axle wants to keep pointing in the same direction. If you mount the gyroscope in a set of gimbals so that it can continue pointing in the same direction, it will. This is the basis of the gyro-compass.

If you mount two gyroscopes with their axles at right angles to one another on a platform, and place the platform inside a set of gimbals, the platform will remain completely rigid as the gimbals rotate in any way they please. This is this basis of inertial navigation systems (INS).

In an INS, sensors on the gimbals' axles detect when the platform rotates. The INS uses those signals to understand the vehicle's rotations relative to the platform. If you add to the platform a set of three sensitive accelerometers, you can tell exactly where the vehicle is heading and how its motion is changing in all three directions. With this information, an airplane's autopilot can keep the plane on course, and a rocket's guidance system can insert the rocket into a desired orbit!


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