While reading the great textbook Fundamentals of Astrodynamics and Applications by David A. Vallado the other day, I came across a really intriguing problem (on page 420, for those who have the book) relating to a hypothetical rescue of a crew of the American Space Shuttle by its Russian equivalent, Buran. The scenario, set at the end of 1998, involves launching Buran with a geostationary Gorizont communications satellite and a rescue module on board, with the idea being to use the Gorizont to control the rescue module as it docks with the Shuttle and takes the crew to the Mir space station.

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Artist’s impression of a Russian Gorizont communications satellite on orbit (Gunter’s Space Page)

The scenario includes a wealth of constraints, including the Buran mission length and Δv, transfer orbit and ground station requirements for the Gorizont satellite. Overall it’s certainly not the sort of mission design task I currently know how to complete, but it seems like a good challenge, so over the next few months I’m going to see if I can come up with a solution. I’ll be using the General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT) for simulating the orbits and will write up my process of coming to the solution if I do manage to find one. Keep an eye on this blog for more updates!