A space rendezvous between two spacecraft, often between a spacecraft and a space station, is an orbital maneuver where the two arrive at the same orbit, make the orbital velocities the same, and bring them together (an approach maneuver, taxiing maneuver); it may or may not include docking.
Alternatively the two are already together, and just undock and dock in a different way:
- Soyuz spacecraft from one docking point to another on the ISS
- in the Apollo spacecraft, an hour or so after Trans Lunar Injection of the sequence third stage of the Saturn V rocket/ LM inside LM adapter / CSM (in order from bottom to top at launch, also the order from back to front with respect to the current motion), with CSM manned, LM at this stage unmanned:
- the CSM separated, while the four upper panels of the LM adapter were disposed of
- the CSM turned 180 degrees (from engine backward, toward LM, to forward)
- the CSM connected to the LM while that was still connected to the third stage
- the CSM/LM combination then separated from the third stage
Another kind of "rendezvous" was in 1969, when the Apollo 12 mission involved a manned landing on the Moon within walking distance of the unmanned Surveyor 3, which had made a soft landing in 1967. Parts of the Surveyor were brought back. Later analysis showed that bacteria had survived their stay on the Moon.
On August 12, 1962 Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 were placed into adjacent orbits and passed within several kilometers of each other, but did not have the orbital maneuvering capability to perform a space rendezvous. This was also the case on June 16, 1963 when Vostok 5 and Vostok 6 were launched into adjacent orbits.
The first space rendezvous took place on December 15, 1965 when Gemini 6 came within 30-cm of Gemini 7. The spacecraft were not equipped to dock and no physical contact took place.
The first space rendezvous and docking took place on March 16, 1966 when Gemini 8 rendezvoused and docked with the uncrewed Agena 8 target vehicle.
An example of an undesired rendezvous in space is an uncontrolled one with space debris.
Anti-satellite weapons partly fall under the category of hostile rendezvous. "Non-energy weapons" are those which do not use explosives or radiation, but just collide.