Fuel-optimal, low-thrust transfers between libration point orbits

Jeffrey R Stuart, Purdue University


Mission design requires the efficient management of spacecraft fuel to reduce mission cost, increase payload mass, and extend mission life. High efficiency, low-thrust propulsion devices potentially offer significant propellant reductions. Periodic orbits that exist in a multi-body regime and low-thrust transfers between these orbits can be applied in many potential mission scenarios, including scientific observation and communications missions as well as cargo transport. In light of the recent discovery of water ice in lunar craters, libration point orbits that support human missions within the Earth-Moon region are of particular interest. This investigation considers orbit transfer trajectories generated by a variable specific impulse, low-thrust engine with a primer-vector-based, fuel-optimizing transfer strategy. A multiple shooting procedure with analytical gradients yields rapid solutions and serves as the basis for an investigation into the trade space between flight time and consumption of fuel mass. Path and performance constraints can be included at node points along any thrust arc. Integration of invariant manifolds into the design strategy may also yield improved performance and greater fuel savings. The resultant transfers offer insight into the performance of the variable specific impulse engine and suggest novel implementations of conventional impulsive thrusters. Transfers incorporating invariant manifolds demonstrate the fuel savings and expand the mission design capabilities that are gained by exploiting system symmetry. A number of design applications are generated.




Howell, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering

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