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Snark Guidance System


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Rockets and Missiles exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the guidance system from the Snark, an air-breathing, subsonic, unpiloted winged missile built by Northrop Aircraft in the 1950s. The system used a combination of inertial and stellar techniques to navigate from launch points in the United States to targets up to 8,000 km (5,000 miles) away. The inertial system guided the missile during launch. Once the missile achieved cruising altitude, the system locked onto a star and corrected any errors in its trajectory caused by drifting of the gyros or other factors. For the final dive to the target, the inertial system once again took over.

The Snark was briefly deployed in the 1950s but was quickly replaced by ballistic missiles in the U.S. arsenal. The advances in stellar and interial navigation developed for the Snark were later used on other aircraft, most notably the SR-71 Blackbird.

Donated by the Northrop Corporation to the Museum in 1970.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Gift of the Northrop Corporation.


Metal parts, glass optics.


3-D: 73.7 x 101.6cm, 235kg (29 x 40 in., 518lb.)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number


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