Tutorial:Orbital Rendezvous

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In version 0.18 docking was introduced. This allows two independently launched components to be intrinsically linked in orbit and allows them to function as a single structure. Functions of such a structure can range from a stationary way point, such as a space station for refuelling to a large scale interplanetary platform that would be impossible to launch in one piece.

The way this is accomplished is by linking (essentially touching) two docking ports to each other, after you have moved both components into an Orbital Rendezvous. This tutorial will explain how to achieve this.


  • Length: 30–40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • For version: 0.18 and higher


Payload Creation

The first step is to create the payload, this tutorial assumes that you will already have this design started, however keep the following in mind:

  • A docking port is required on at least one point of your payload.
  • Another port can also be attached so that another section can be daisy chained to it a later stage.
  • The sections should be kept at a reasonable size. The only one worth pushing the limits on is the first section, as it will not have to move once in place.

Tug Creation

Next you will need a small orbital tug to push your payload into position. This will mainly be liquid fuel and a small engine controlled by a command module.

A small amount of liquid fuel and an adequate sized engine should be used for the payload. Only a tiny amount is required as it will only have to cover a small distance to the target.

More importantly monopropellant and RCS thrusters are necessary to fine tune the position and allow the docking ports to touch.

After constructing the craft, the center of mass indicator should be used to fine tune the RCS thrusters' positions. The thrusters should be placed symmetrically around the center of mass of the completed craft to allow linear movement without rotation while in space.

Orbital Alignment

There are four distinct stages to an orbital rendezvous:

  1. Achieving stable orbit
  2. Fine-tuning orbit sync and inclination to match target
  3. Matching target orbit
  4. Dock positioning and locking

Achieving stable orbit

This is covered in other tutorials and I refer you to them. It is however best to get as close to the target's orbit as possible, as it will save heart ache and fuel at a later stage.

Go Build Baby

Tada! Now you've read a full tutorial. Congratulations!