Optimal low-thrust, Earth-Moon trajectories

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1993
Authors
Kluever, Craig
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Bion L. Pierson
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Aerospace Engineering

The Department of Aerospace Engineering seeks to instruct the design, analysis, testing, and operation of vehicles which operate in air, water, or space, including studies of aerodynamics, structure mechanics, propulsion, and the like.

History
The Department of Aerospace Engineering was organized as the Department of Aeronautical Engineering in 1942. Its name was changed to the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 1961. In 1990, the department absorbed the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics and became the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. In 2003 the name was changed back to the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

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1942-present

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  • Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (1990-2003)

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Abstract

A variety of optimal trajectories from a circular low-Earth parking orbit to a circular low-lunar parking orbit are computed for a range of low-thrust spacecraft. The problem is studied in the context of the classical restricted three-body problem. Minimum-fuel, planar trajectories with a fixed thrust-coast-thrust engine sequence are computed for both a "high-end" low-thrust spacecraft and "moderate" low-thrust nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) spacecraft. Since a low-thrust trajectory is a long duration transfer with slowly developing spirals about the Earth and Moon, the minimum-fuel Earth-Moon trajectory is obtained by formulating and successively solving a hierarchy of sub-problems. The subproblems include optimal Earth-escape and Moon-capture trajectories and sub-optimal translunar trajectories. The complete minimum-fuel trajectory problem is eventually solved using a "hybrid" direct/indirect method which utilizes the benefits of a direct optimization method and an indirect method from optimal control theory. Minimum-fuel transfers are also computed using a switching function structure which results in multiple thrust and coast arcs. In addition, a new combined vehicle and trajectory optimization problem of maximum payload fraction is formulated and solved. Finally, three-dimensional minimum-fuel trajectories are obtained for both the "high-end" and "moderate" low-thrust spacecraft. Numerical results are presented for various optimal Earth-Moon trajectories.

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Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1993