March 28 – Gyroscopes Are the Answer! (What's the question?)

Posted on March 28, 2017

"What did Robert Goddard successfully use on this date in 1935 to control a rocket?"

Now we think of Robert Goddard as the one who ushered in the Space Age, because this American engineer and physicist is the guy who built the world's first liquid-fueled rocket.

During his life, the press sometimes ridiculed his ideas, and most of the public didn't know him or applaud him. But NOW we know he was a pioneer, one of the founders of modern rocketry.

Years ago I wrote about Goddard Day (March 16), the anniversary of Goddard's first successful launch in 1926. Today's anniversary occurred nearly a decade later, as Goddard tried to figure out a guidance system that would keep a rocket pointing vertically longer, and then curve into a horizontal flight. This flight reached a then-record 4,800 feet of altitude before roaring off into a horizontal flight.

His answer was a gyroscope mounted on gimbals to electrically control steering vanes that are located in the exhaust.

A what-a-scope mounted on whatsits? Electrically controlling what in what?

A gyroscope is a sort of toplike toy or device with a wheel or disk mounted so that it can spin around an axis - but the axis can change direction. Notice that the axis is not affected by the tilting of the mounting. That's what makes a gyroscope perfect for maintaining the planned direction in a guidance system.

Goddard's gyroscope moved the vanes positioned to divert or change direction of a portion of the exhaust rushing past them during the rocket's flight.

Above, the exhaust rushing out of the
rocket's nozzle.
Below, the movable steering vanes
near the rocket's nozzle.

To find out more...check out this or this.

Also on this date:

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