Education Technology

NASA - Rendezvous For Two

Activity Overview

When the space shuttle launches from NASA Kennedy Space Center, it must launch within a certain time frame (called a launch window) in order to successfully dock with the ISS. Launch windows are calculated so that the space shuttle will reach an orbit that is slightly lower than the ISS, but in the same orbital plane. In this problem, students evaluate conics to ensure a safe docking with the ISS.


Students will

  • write an equation of an ellipse in standard form;
  • calculate the lengths of semi-major and semi-minor axes;
  • calculate the distance of the foci;
  • calculate eccentricity; and
  • write an equation of a circle.