Thomas P. Dixon, Charles L. Wyman, and H. Dean Coombes

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: A LASER GUIDANCE system for rendezvous and docking has been developed for the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. This system is the culmination of four years of study, experimentation, and hardware development. In its application on unmanned, as well as manned spacecraft, it will provide the necessary intelligence to the guidance computer to effect a complete rendezvous and docking operation automatically. The system uses uncooled gallium arsenide laser arrays operating in a pulsed mode for initial acquisition and subsequent measurement of X and Y angles, angle rates, range, and range rates. When the distance between the two space-craft has been reduced to less than three kilometers, greatly increased range and range rate accuracy are obtained by the use of an incoherent gallium arsenide diode source continuously modulated at a high frequency, and using phase-locked detection techniques in the receiver. Control of the spacecraft from this sensor continues until the docking operation is completed. The paper gives a brief history of the program, a technical discussion of the optics and electronics, a description of the test and evaluation program, and a summary of the performance specifications that apply to the present model.
Published in: NAVIGATION: Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 13, Number 3
Pages: 231 - 245
Cite this article: Dixon, Thomas P., Wyman, Charles L., Coombes, H. Dean, "A LASER GUIDANCE SYSTEM FOR RENDEZVOUS AND DOCKING", NAVIGATION: Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall 1966, pp. 231-245.
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