Aerospace Control Systems

Spacecraft GNC Systems Engineering




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What is the status of MEMS gyro technology for spacecraft? PDF Print E-mail

Micro Electro-Mechanical (MEMS) gyro technology has been receiving greater interest in recent years, particularly for use on small spacecraft (such as cubesats or nanosats) where mass, volume, and power are at a premium and pointing knowledge accuracy > 0.1 degree 1σ. The main problems with MEMS gyros are that they exhibit high drift rate, short correlation time of the drift error, and high sensitivity to temperature. Despite recent improvements, one reason that MEMS gyros are not used on spacecraft is that nobody wants to pay for the cost of space-qualification.

At present, quartz tuning fork gyros such as the Systron Donner QRS116 and QRS11 quartz MEMS gyros and the Systron Donner QRS28 Quartz Dual Axis Rate Sensor (QDARS) are used on some small spacecraft.

One particular example of the use of MEMS gyros is the Draper Inertial Stellar Compass (ISC). The large (simulated) drift rate is seen in Figure 2 of [1]. (The units of time in that graph are minutes.)

Look for updates to this article in the near future.


[1] Tye M. Brady, et al., "The Inertial Stellar Compass: A New Direction in Spacecraft Attitude Determination", 16th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, Utah, 12–15 August, 2002.