The Problem of Docking with a Passive Orbiting Object Which Possesses Angular Momentum

  • Marshall H. Kaplan
Conference paper


The problem of docking with a passive orbiting object which is either spinning or tumbling has recently developed interest for several reasons. Retrieval and repair of spent satellites will be technically feasible and economically desirable with the advent of the space shuttle system. Manned space stations will be circling the globe within a few years; thus, indicating that elimination of at least part of the space debris may be imperative to insure safety from collisions. Many of the discarded items are spinning and have a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Furthermore, if a collision or other mishap should occur, a manned vehicle may become uncontrolled and enter a tumbling mode of attitude motion. In order to rescue the crew or repair the spacecraft, this tumbling must be controlled and eliminated. Many studies have been carried out to formulate rescue schemes and requirements, develop uncooperative rendezvous techniques, and investigate satellite manipulation via remote operators. However, several specific problems related to docking with objects possessing angular momentum have not previously been considered and require new technology for solution. Techniques for retrieving uncooperative spinning objects are presented. A conceptual spacecraft for remotely despinning and retrieving debris of moderate size is discussed in depth. In addition, the more complex problems of detumbling a large vehicle are described. Specific aspects of rescue from such a vehicle are presented, although a general solution has not yet been formulated. The major objective is to identify the particularly important problems of docking with a spinning or tumbling object and present the current status of some promising solutions.


Spin Axis Attitude Control System Disturbance Torque Simple Spin Reaction Control System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    ‘Satellite Situation Report’, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Vol. 11, No. 5, May 31, 1971.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Interian, A. and Kugath, D., Astronaut. Aeronaut. 7 (1969), 24.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Tobey, W. H., French, R. T., and Adams, D. M., ‘Experimental Material Handling Device, Final Report’, Martin Marietta Corp., Denver Division, Report No. MCR-69-414, September 1969.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    ‘Preliminary Analysis of Escape from a Tumbling Space Station’, General Electric Co., Apollo Systems Division, Report No. SS-TR-060-4, June 1970.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Kaplan, M. H., Yarber, W. H., Creehan, E. J., and Thorns, E. C., ‘Dynamics and Control for Orbital Retrieval Operations Using the Space Shuttle’, presented at the NASA Shuttle Technology Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, March 1971. Also in Space Shuttle Technology Conference, Vol. 1: Operations, Maintenance, and Safety, NASA Kennedy Space Center TR-1113, May 1971, p. 175.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Thomson, W. T., Introduction to Space Dynamics, Wiley and Sons, 1963, p. 113.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Yarber, W. H., ‘Conceptual Design, Dynamics, and Control of a Device for Despinning Orbiting Objects’, Astronautics Research Report No. 71-2, Department of Aerospace Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, May 1971.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    Greensite, A. L., Analysis and Design of Space Vehicle Flight Control Systems, Spartan Books, 1970, pp. 385 and 413.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Wild, J. W. and Schaefer, H., ‘Space Rescue Operations’, presented at the 3rd International Symposium on Space Rescue at the XXI International Astronautical Congress, Constance, Germany, October 1970.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Space Rescue Operations, Vol. II: Technical Discussion, The Aerospace Corp., Report No. ATR-71 (7212-05)-1, May 1971, p. 22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marshall H. Kaplan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations