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Europe Adopts MEMS Gyros For Space Navigation

CHARLOTTE, NCGyroscopes from Goodrich Corp. have successfully passed in-orbit testing on the European Space Agency's (ESA) Earth Explorer CryoSat-2 satellite during a mission to detect shifts in global ice cover. The microelectromechanical-system (MEMS) gyros, which are the smallest to ever be flown by ESA, were used to monitor the satellite's rate of spin. They were integrated into the SiREUS rate sensor to form Europe's first MEMS-based device to be used for space-vehicle navigation.

"This sensor is based on a new concept and the flight experiment was very important for proving its feasibility," explains Daniele Temperanza from ESA's Control Systems Division. "The CryoSat-2 project offered the opportunity to gain flight heritage. The satellite's precision ice measurements rely on knowing its orbital position and attitude very precisely, requiring highly accurate navigation sensor performance."

The SiREUS rate sensor features three 0.155-square-inch MEMS gyros from Plymouth, UK-based Atlantic Inertial Systems (AIS), which was acquired by Goodrich in December of last year. Running on 6 W and weighing only 1.65 lbs., the gyros are development extensions of units that are already used worldwide for automotive electronic-stability control. Their evolution for space was backed by ESA's Technology Programs with three UK-based industrial partners: Selex Galileo, AIS, and Systems Engineering and Assessment (SEA). SiREUS is now being made available commercially through Selex Galileo.

According to Ian Longden, Director of MEMS Inertial Sensing Technology for Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems, "The culmination of this project with such positive results is an excellent outcome. We've delivered over 18 million MEMS-based gyros around the world and the ESA program offered us the first opportunity to explore the potential of these gyros for the unique needs of the space sector."

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