Space Rendezvous - History


In its first human spaceflight program Vostok, the Soviet Union launched pairs of spacecraft from the same launch pad, one or two days apart (Vostok 3 and 4 in 1962, and Vostok 5 and 6 in 1963). In each case, the launch vehicles' guidance systems inserted the two craft into nearly identical orbits; however, this was not nearly precise enough to achieve rendezvous, as the Vostok lacked maneuvering thrusters to adjust its orbit to match that of its twin. The initial separation distances were in the range of 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi), and slowly diverged to thousands of kilometres (over a thousand miles) over the course of the missions.

In 1963 Buzz Aldrin submitted his doctoral thesis titled, Line-Of-Sight Guidance Techniques For Manned Orbital Rendezvous. As a NASA astronaut Aldrin worked to, "Translate complex orbital mechanics into relatively simple flight plans for my colleagues."

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