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### 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 solar electric propulsion is used to transfer the spacecraft to the pole-sitter orbit. The objective is to minimize 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 manifold-like trajectories that wind onto 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, which provides further mass savings, but at the cost of an increased time of flight.

Original language | English |
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Pages (from-to) | 253-268 |

Journal | Acta Astronautica |

Volume | 79 |

DOIs | |

Publication status | Published - Oct 2012 |

### Keywords

- Pole-sitter
- trajectory optimization
- solar electric propulsion
- low-thrust propulsion
- Soyuz launch
- orbital averaging
- low-thrust spiral

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## Projects

- 1 Finished

## VISIONSPACE - VISIONARY SPACE SYSTEMS: ORBITAL DYNAMICS AT EXTREMES OF SPACECRAFT LENGTH SCALE (ERC ADVANCED GRANT)

McInnes, C.

European Commission - FP7 - European Research Council

1/02/09 → 30/09/14

Project: Research

## Cite this

Heiligers, J., Ceriotti, M., McInnes, C., & Biggs, J. (2012). Design of optimal Earth pole-sitter transfers using low-thrust propulsion.

*Acta Astronautica*,*79*, 253-268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.04.025