History of the fiber-optic gyro
A reflection on the 40th anniversary of the fiber-optic gyro. (An SPIE Professional magazine article. )
In 1976, Victor Vali and Richard Shorthill demonstrated an operational fiber-optic gyro for the first time. In that same year, McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. in Huntington Beach, CA, (MDAC-HB) completed a project to redesign a new, lower-cost inertial measurement unit (IMU) for the Delta rocket based on dry-tuned mechanical gyros.
NASA agreed to split the profit with McDonnell Douglas on future Delta launches, in exchange for the company funding development costs for the IMU. But NASA's contract included an option to cancel profit-sharing with McDonnell Douglas if another company created a cheaper, high-performance gyro for rocket guidance.
Considering that possibility, the guidance and control group at MDAC-HB funded a small project with the Electro-Optics Laboratory at MDAC to investigate optical gyros. That small project led to a fiber-optic innovation explosion over the next 10 years.
In an article in the October 2016 issue of SPIE Professional Eric Udd, who began work at MDAC-HB in 1977, gives a brief personal history of the 40th anniversary of the fiber-optic gyro.