Eli5: How did guidance systems on the V2 rockets work

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Even the Wikipedia page confused me

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

V2s weren’t all that accurate. The first V2s simply were pointed in the known direction and distance of their target city. Gyroscopes were used to determine the rocket’s orientation and would adjust the fins to keep it on the intended flight path during ascent. The engine would shut off at a predetermined velocity, which is how distance is controlled. After engine cutoff, they were sent on ballistic trajectories, leaving them vulnerable to weather or atmospheric conditions. The rockets would fall within a roughly 20 kilometer radius centered on the intended target. Obviously, that meant that precision targeting was impossible.

A radio control was later introduced to try to improve accuracy, but it wasn’t all that much better.

Anonymous 0 Comments

To be fair it is pretty complex. And it is made even more complex as they did not have digital computers like we have today but rather used mechanical computers augmented with simple electronics. The rocket were equipped with gyroscopes and accelerometers. These are mechanical devices that can tell which direction the rocket is pointing in. There were then a mechanical computer using cogs, wheels and cams. These would then adjust eight control devices, four rudders and four vanes in the rocket exhaust. By combining these eight controls the rocket could adjust its trajectory and roll.

The guidance system was very simple and could basically just make the rocket go in a straight line. This way any wind or instability in the engine would not change its direction. Later on they installed radio receivers on the rocket. It could follow a signal from the source and tell if it was to the left or right of this signal.

If you want to know more about the type of mechanical computer they used CuriousMarc have several videos and blog posts of other mechanical computers from a few years after the V-2. For the radio guidance systems the same principle is still used in modern Instrument Landing Systems.