Design of optimal Earth pole-sitter transfers using low thrust propulsion

Jeannette Heiligers, Matteo Ceriotti, Colin McInnes, James Biggs

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

2 Citations (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Recent studies have shown the feasibility of an Earth pole-sitter mission using low-thrust propulsion. This mission concept involves a spacecraft following the Earth's polar axis to have a continuous, hemispherical view of one of the Earth's poles. Such a view will enhance future Earth observation and telecommunications for high latitude and polar regions. To assess the accessibility of the pole-sitter orbit, this paper investigates optimum Earth pole-sitter transfers employing low-thrust propulsion. A launch from low Earth orbit (LEO) by a Soyuz Fregat upper stage is assumed after which a solar-electric-propulsion thruster transfers the spacecraft to the pole-sitter orbit. The objective is to minimise the mass in LEO for a given spacecraft mass to be inserted into the pole-sitter orbit. The results are compared with a ballistic transfer that exploits the manifolds winding off the pole-sitter orbit. It is shown that, with respect to the ballistic case, low-thrust propulsion can achieve significant mass savings in excess of 200 kg for a pole-sitter spacecraft of 1000 kg upon insertion. To finally obtain a full low-thrust transfer from LEO up to the pole-sitter orbit, the Fregat launch is replaced by a low-thrust, minimum time spiral through an orbital averaging technique, which provides further mass savings, but at the cost of an increased time of flight.
Original languageEnglish
PagesArticle IAC11-C-1.1.11
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2011
Event62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 3 Oct 20117 Oct 2011

Conference

Conference62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011
CountrySouth Africa
CityCape Town
Period3/10/117/10/11

Keywords

  • trajectory optimization
  • pole-sitter
  • low-thrust propulsion
  • solar electric propulsion

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    Heiligers, J., Ceriotti, M., McInnes, C., & Biggs, J. (2011). Design of optimal Earth pole-sitter transfers using low thrust propulsion. Article IAC11-C-1.1.11. Paper presented at 62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, Cape Town, South Africa.