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GPS for Spacecraft Attitude & Translation Control

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A commercial GPS Receiver was used for the first time to help determine the attitude (i.e. orientation or flight dynamics) of a spacecraft on the Stanford-led Gravity Probe B (GP-B) Mission.

Gravity Probe B diagram


In the late 1980s, a special GPS receiver was developed that could accommodate a rolling spacecraft (i.e. @ 1 rpm) in Low Earth Orbit. The spacecraft had extreme pointing requirements and needed to maintain its’ orbit to within +/- 25 meters. The spacecraft’s attitude control system performed flawlessly on-orbit during the 18-month mission.

Professor Brad Parkinson led the technical development of GP-B. Many of the future uses for GPS were direct spin-offs from GP-B.

Stanford originally received NASA funding for this 40+ year landmark experiment.

 For further details see: The Stanford Gravity Probe B website (