I learned about the Kurs docking system in this answer, then found out what they looked like in this and in this answer. Those images show several tiny dish antenna structures sticking out from various ISS modules and spacecraft.

I've shown an example image below, where I've indicated what looks like two (slightly) different types of antenna-pairs, plus an unpaired object that might be an antenna as well.

Reading Section 3.2.2 of David C. Woffinden's 2008 Ph.D. thesis Angles-Only Navigation for Autonomous Orbital Rendezvous (originally linked here) I can see that there are several radar different radar signals used by Kurs, possibly both linked and one-way signals.

How many Kurs antennas does a spacecraft or ISS module have in toto, and how do the different functions and signals map on to them?

below: Cropped and annotated, from here. "ISS029-E-036167 (2 Nov. 2011) --- An unpiloted ISS Progress resupply vehicle approaches the International Space Station, carrying 1,653 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 3,108 pounds of maintenance gear, spare parts, experiment hardware and resupply items for the residents of the space station. Progress 45 docked to the station's Pirs docking compartment at 7:41 a.m. (EDT) on Nov. 2, 2011." Original from here.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Section 3.2.2 of 'Angles-only navigation' contains a diagram and description of all Kurs antennas except number 3 in your diagram. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Jun 21 '17 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes I'm asking about "...the variety of antennas extending from the various spacecraft and modules..." not just the ones that happen to be in my example image. I'm looking for a concise description of each of the radar channels, and which antenna is for which. I will adjust the wording to make that more clear. This one I can answer myself if no-one is interested. Also I repaired the link to the pdf. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 21 '17 at 10:08

I see different versions of Cyrillic transliterations in my sources; I have chosen consistency.

There are 6 Kurs antennae. For some reason NASA labeled two of them with the single number "3".

Refer to the images for antenna location (yellow numbers on the graphic, red numbers in the photo): enter image description here enter image description here

The descriptions come straight out of the linked paper. They appear to have been copied verbatim from the Soyuz Crew Operations Manual, which sadly is not online.

  1. ACΦ1 - measures range, range rate, target line-of-sight (LOS) heading and pitch angles, relative roll angle, LOS angular rate
  2. ACΦ2 - receives parameters transmitted from the station (heading and pitch)
  3. AKR2 - omnidirectional range and range rate antenna

    AKR3 - operates with 2AO antenna in the attitude control mode

  4. 2AO - measures LOS heading and pitch angles
  5. AKR1 - omnidirectional range and range rate antenna


  • $\begingroup$ Excellent links! It will take me a little time to read though the modeling paper, but it seems to be chock-full-of information and well worth it. Thanks for naming and enumerating the antennas as well, and clearing up the difference in numbering systems. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 3 '17 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ You might be interested in this link: elmiz.com/en/product/orbitalnyj-servis-eng/product/view/2/1 It seems to be the company that builds the system. I found the video painful to watch (listen to) and not real informative but there are some pictures of the antenna components. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 3 '17 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ I see what you mean, but for a space-noob and Kurz-noob like me the video is pretty helpful; with a bit of overview it may be easier now to dive into the larger documents (e.g. your link). Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 3 '17 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ I've just asked Do the Soyuz spacecraft bringing astronauts and supplies to the ISS use Ukraine-built Kurs systems? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 4 '17 at 14:13

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