Encyclopedia Astronautica

Draper, Charles Stark (1901-1987) American engineer. Pioneered development of inertial navigation systems in the United States and designed the Apollo navigation system.

Charles Stark Draper was born in Windsor, Missouri, the son of a dentist. A long scholastic career at the University of Missouri, and Stanford, in arts, sciences, and psychology, cumulated with a doctorate in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1938. Draper became a full professor there the following year. The brilliant and forceful Draper founded the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory in 1940. He was eventually head of MIT's aeronautics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Instrumentation Lab's first major achievement was the Mark 14 gyroscopic gunsight for Navy antiaircraft guns. During the 1950's Draper developed a Focault pendulum device to automatically correct existing naval and aeronautical gyrocompasses for the rotation of the earth; and autopilots to use the outputs from the combined platform to automatically fly the aircraft. In 1953 he demonstrated the first transcontinental automated fight of a B-29 bomber using one of these devices. Ever more precise versions were developed, by the end of the decade equipping American nuclear submarines and capable of guiding them submerged around the earth.

When the time came to develop the inertial-stellar navigation and control system that would take the Apollo capsule from the earth to the moon, Draper's laboratory received the contract. It was sole source award, a no-brainer, and the first one issued in the entire program. Draper had a prototype running by June 1962.

Draper was described in the 1960's as "an aggressive little gamecock with an eye for the ladies, a man who took dancing lessons late in life and who combed his hair in a pompadour to conceal his bald spot". He was removed from MIT in January 1970 due to anti-war protests against the work the Instrumentation Laboratory was doing for the military.

Birth Place: Windsor, Missouri.

Born: 1901.10.02.
Died: 1987.07.01.

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Lay, Beirne Jr, Earthbound Astronauts, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1971.

Draper Chronology

1987 July 1 - .
  • Death of Charles Stark Draper - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Draper. Summary: American engineer. Pioneered development of inertial navigation systems in the United States and designed the Apollo navigation system..

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