A radio communication and ranging system has been proposed for determining the relative position and orientations of two approaching spacecraft to provide guidance for docking maneuvers. On Earth, the system could be used similarly for guiding approaching aircraft and for automated positioning of large, heavy objects. In principle, the basic idea is to (1) measure distances between radio transceivers on the two spacecraft and (2) compute the relative position and orientations from the measured distances.

Half-duplex communication links would be established between transceivers on the two spacecraft, and pulses having durations of the order of a nanosecond would be exchanged. The distances would be determined by the pulse-time-of-flight method. Data signals could be transmitted in addition to ranging pulses.

This work was done by Vikram Manikonda and Eric van Doorn of Intelligent Automation, Inc. for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23474-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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