Michele "Mike" Sapuppo
Michele “Mike” Sapuppo received both a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters in Engineering degree from MIT, graduating in 1952. After two years in the U.S. Army Ordnance Corp, he joined the Miniature Components Group of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory in 1954 (now Draper). The primary focus of Sapuppo’s work design, development, and technology transfer to industry of precision accelerometers for laboratory guidance systems.
All laboratory accelerometers were based on either of two operating principles: Pendulous Integrating Gyroscopes (PIG) and Pulsed Integrating Pendulums (PIP). The performance of PIGAs was typically an order of magnitude better than that of PIPAs. The Apollo guidance system used the PIPA because it required the highest possible reliability. The PIGA has many precision parts, assemblies, and several wear out modes. The PIPA has few parts, no wear out modes and more than adequate performance when properly built.
Development of a new instrument typically takes about 2 years at the laboratory. Obtaining good field reliability from industry-built instruments will add another 2 years. The Apollo 16 PIPA Mod D accelerometer design used the same, well understood electro-magnetic components from the Navy Polaris Strategic Missile guidance system namely, the 16 PIPA Mod C accelerometer.
Sperry Gyroscope was selected by NASA in a competitive procurement process in Houston. All flight accelerometers were manufactured by Sperry Gyroscope Company under a stringent NASA/IL change control system. Technology transfer to industry is a difficult process requiring a close and open working relationship between parties. This was the case between Sperry and IL that successfully achieved the desired results.
Mike Sapuppo retired from Draper in 1991, after almost four decades.