Inertial Survey System

The Litton Auto-Surveyor System (LASS) is a space-age surveying instrument that uses a series of gyroscopes connected to precise accelerometers to track its motion in the x, y and z coordinates. Its story began in the 1950s, with the development of an inertial system suitable for missile guidance. In the 1960s, with funding from the U.S. Army Engineering Topographic Laboratories (USAETL), Litton Guidance & Control Systems developed an inertial Position and Azimuth Determination System (PADS) for artillery survey purposes. Another USAETL contract enabled Litton to develop an inertial system suitable for geodetic work. LASS-I was unveiled in 1975, with a price tag of over $1 million. LASS-II, smaller and slightly less expensive, followed in 1982.
Itech, a surveying firm located in Anchorage, Alaska, found that LASS was particularly well suited for marking boundaries in vast territories with hostile terrain, especially when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management footed the bill. Often the instrument would be installed in a helicopter and flown from one place to another. Itech was a subsidiary of Doyon, Ltd., a native regional corporation. Geonex bought out Itech, and donated this example to the Smithsonian in 1997.
Ref: Technical Description. Litton Auto-Surveyor System LL (Lass II) (Litton Systems, Inc., 1982).
LASS-II Operator’s Guide (Litton Systems, Inc., 1982).
Currently not on view
overall: 40 in x 40 in x 40 in; 101.6 cm x 101.6 cm x 101.6 cm
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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