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ESA docking mechanism ESA-developed berthing and docking mechanism

Document Change Notices - July 12, 2019

Three Document Change Notices have been issued:

ROSCOSMOS - Oct 22, 2010

*Translation from the Russian

Moscow, Oct 22 (Itar-Tass) Space ships and stations, developed by different countries in future will be reunited in orbit without any technical difficulties. The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) said on yesterday, "Partners for the International Space Station (ISS) - Roskosmos, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) - agreed on a new international standard of docking systems." The international standard of docking systems,"determines the principles of interoperability between different systems of connections, namely the Russian Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS) with alignment petals and new docking mechanisms with soft capture," explained the agency. A single standard will make it possible to dock spacecraft with compatible, but not necessarily identical, mechanisms. At the same time it provides the possibility of implementing manipulator (manual) docking, with the use of which, in particular, Japanese cargo ships of the HTV series are captured and brought to the station. The APAS standardised docking unit was developed under the guidance of renowned scientist Vladimir Syromyatnikov for the first international docking of the Soyuz and Apollo, which took place in July 1975. Since then, not only Russian spaceships and stations, but also space shuttles and European cargo ships of the ATV Series have been equipped with such units. Within the project "Constellation" NASA has developed a Low Impact Docking System (LIDS), which is intended to be used in spacecraft Orion. Despite the fact that the system is a smaller, lightweight, and a simplified version of APAS, they are not compatible. All Russian ships and modules of the ISS, as well as the European spacecraft ATV use a different, plug-socket docking mechanism. Currently, it is planned to apply LIDS in future of transport spaceships, which will replace space shuttles after the closure of the programme next year. According to the current plans of NASA, flights of new spaceships to the ISS are to begin in 2015, but until then, American astronauts will get to the station on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. APAS was designed by Vladimir Syromyatnikov of the Moscow-based RSC Energia and has roots in the Apollo-Soyuz programme. The idea behind the design is that unlike with the probe-and-drogue docking system, any APAS docking ring can mate with any other APAS docking ring, both sides are androgynous. In each docking there is however, an active and a passive side, but both sides can fulfil either role. There are 3 basic variations of the APAS system - APAS-75, APAS-89 and APAS-95.


ESA - Oct 19, 2010 (Full press release at

New international standard for spacecraft docking

Partners in the International Space Station programme have agreed on a new standard for docking systems, which will be capable also of implementing berthing. The agreement allows a range of compatible, but not necessarily identical, mechanisms for spacecraft docking. A first agreed version of the Interface Definition Document will be released on 25 October.
The International Docking System Standard (IDSS) provides the guidelines for a common interface to link spacecraft together. It builds on the heritage of the Russian developed APAS system (Androgynous Peripheral Attachment System) used for the Space Shuttle for the ‘hard docking’ and the innovative soft-capture features of the new NASA and ESA systems. Other agencies will be free to choose specific features behind the interface.  

“The IDSS is an outstanding example of international collaboration. We have developed a common language for docking systems to use the same 'words' in space when it comes to work together,” said Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight.

“The Docking Standard sweeps away the boundaries for a truly global exploration endeavour. It will also make joint spacecraft docking operations more routine and eliminate critical obstacles to joint space exploration undertakings,” she continued.
"Today, our future in space is more open-minded than ever. ESA has been committed to the development of this standard since the inception of the working group and has contributed to the document defining this standard interface. We have been working for a number of years on the development of the IBDM (International Berthing Docking Mechanism) and we are willing to make the IBDM compatible with this new international docking standard,” Simonetta Di Pippo concluded.

Open and flexible standard

The initial IDSS definition document will be released into the public domain on 25 October. It will contain a preliminary description of the physical features and design loads of the standard docking interface.

The technical teams from the five ISS partner agencies will continue to work on additional refinements and additions to the initial standard. ESA, NASA, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency are represented on the Multilateral Coordination Board, which coordinates Station activities among the partners.


NASA - Oct 19, 2010 (Full press release at

WASHINGTON -- The International Space Station Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) has approved a docking system standard. The international standard will provide guidelines for a common interface to link future spacecraft ranging from crewed to autonomous vehicles and from low-Earth orbit to deep-space exploration missions. The interface definition document is available at:

The MCB consists of senior representatives from NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency; the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology assisted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; the European Space Agency; and the Canadian Space Agency. The MCB is the space station's senior level management board. It coordinates the orbiting laboratory's operations and activities among the partners.

"The goal was to identify the requirements to create a standard interface to enable two different spacecraft to dock in space during future missions and operations," said Bill Gerstenmaier, MCB chair and associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This standard will ease the development process for emerging international cooperative space missions and enable the possibility of international crew rescue missions."

This standardization effort will ensure interface commonality without dictating any particular design behind the standard interface. The document contains the information necessary to describe physical features and design loads of a standard docking interface.

The technical teams from the five space station partner agencies will continue to work on additional refinements and revisions to the initial standard.

The Multilateral Coordination Board released the document to allow non-partner agencies and commercial developers to review the new standard and provide feedback.