TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Pref. — Two Japanese space satellites completed the world’s first unmanned rendezvous and orbital docking procedure Tuesday over the Pacific Ocean, according to the National Space Development Agency.
The two probes held their rendezvous for 15 minutes while in orbit over the Pacific Ocean after the agency separated its Engineering Test Satellite-VII into two independent parts — the Orihime and the Hikoboshi — at 7:10 a.m. Japan standard time.
The experiment was scheduled to coincide with Tanabata, the star festival that commemorates a legendary meeting between Princess Orihime (the star Vega) and her lover Hikoboshi (Altair). Legend says they were punished by the gods and allowed to meet only once a year — on the night of July 7.
As they glided above earth at an altitude of 550 km with only 2 meters between them, the Hikoboshi made his approach and docked with the Orihime over Mexico through both automatic and remote controls at 7:30 a.m., officials at the space center said.
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