LEO Staging Base
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Rendezvous Paths to the LEO Staging Base

Spacecraft rendezvous paths

Rendezvous Direction

The best places to put docking ports in the assembly fixture are at the front and bottom of the little space station. Docking ports in these locations accommodate rendezvous techniques developed over the years.

The prefered rendezvous approach is along the positive V-bar vector. That means the approaching spacecraft will be coming up on the facility from in front of it, along its velocity vector. (Velocity vector points toward the space station's direction of travel as it orbits around the Earth.)

Second choice would be an R-bar approach. For an R-bar approach, the spacecraft will come up from below, along the radius between the target and the earth's center of gravity. R-bar is a little bit tricky because if you're not at the same altitude as the facility, you'll tend to drift ahead of it (if approaching from below) or behind (if approaching from above).

At the Mir, the Russians often come in along the V-bar or R-bar, and dock at a temporary location. Then they move the spacecraft to its final position with their manual remote manipulator arm.

Gravity Gradient

In designing the LEO Assembly Fixture, keep the gravity gradient in mind. The longest axis of the facility will want to point at the earth. That gives you a clue as to what orientation this thing will fly, and hence which part of the space station will be pointed toward Earth and which part will be pointed along the velocity vector.

We can control the attitude of the space station to defy the gravity gradient, but this requires using fuel to balance out the forces. It's not a lot of fuel, but over the life of the space station we could add a significant amount to our resupply requirements by fighting gravity. We probably will be better off designing the little space station to go along with Mother Nature.

LEO Staging Base

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