Design of low-thrust gravity assist trajectories to Europa

Massimiliano Vasile, Stefano Campagnola

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This paper presents the design of a mission to Europa using solar electric propulsion as main source of thrust. A direct transcription method based on Finite Elements in Time was used for the design and optimisation of the entire low-thrust gravity assist transfer from the Earth to Europa. Prior to that, a global search algorithm was used to generate a set of suitable first guess solutions for the transfer to Jupitor, and for the capture in the Jovian system. In particular, a fast deterministic search algorithm was developed to find the most promising set of swing-bys to reach Jupitor. A second fast search algorithm was developed to find the best sequence of swing-bys of the Jovian moons. After introducing the global search algorithms and the direct transcription through Finite Elements in Time, the paper presents a number of first guess solutions and a fully optimised transfer from the Earth to Europa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalJBIS, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009



  • finite elements in time
  • trajectory optimisation
  • low-thrust multigravity assist trajectories
  • direct transcription methods
  • global optimisation methods

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