• REVIEW OF LASER AND RF SYSTEMS FOR SPACE PROXIMITY OPERATIONS

      Krishen, Kumar; Erwin, Harry O.; Johnson Space Center (International Foundation for Telemetering, 1986-10)
      This paper presents a review of the ranging and tracking systems/techniques used in the past NASA programs. A review of the anticipated requirements for future rendezvous and docking operations is also presented as rationale for further development of the technology in this area. The first American rendezvous in space was between Gemini VI-A and Gemini VII and took place on December 15, 1965. The Gemini vehicles were equipped with a noncoherent pulse radar. The target vehicle carried a transponder to assist the radar in target acquisition. Angle tracking was accomplished by the phase-comparison monopulse technique. In the Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs, the rendezvous and/or docking were manual operations supported by radar measurements and visual observations. The Shuttle rendezvous radar is a Ku-band, pulse-Doppler radar which doubles as a communications transceiver. This radar is not accurate enough to support close-in stationkeeping or docking. An automatic soft-docking capability has been established as a requirement for future space operations. Millimeter wave and laser radar systems have shown promise in satisfying the needed accuracy requirements and size constraints (for space applications) compared to the microwave systems for proximity attitude, position and velocity measurements. A review of these systems and their capabilities is presented in this paper. Rather than developing a separate sensor to satisfy the requirements of each new spacecraft, a hybrid design is proposed for a versatile system which can satisfy the needs for different spacecrafts and missions.