Displaced geostationary orbit design using hybrid sail propulsion

Jeannette Heiligers, Matteo Ceriotti, Colin McInnes, James Biggs

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48 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


Due to an increase in number of geostationary spacecraft and limits imposed by east-west spacing requirements, the geostationary orbit is becoming congested. To increase its capacity, this paper proposes to create new geostationary slots by displacing the geostationary orbit either out of or in the equatorial plane by means of hybrid solar sail and solar electric propulsion. To minimize propellant consumption, optimal steering laws for the solar sail and solar electric propulsion thrust vectors are derived and the performance in terms of mission lifetime is assessed. For comparison, similar analyses are performed for conventional propulsion, including impulsive and pure solar electric propulsion. It is shown that hybrid sails outperform these propulsion techniques and that out-of-plane displacements outperform in-plane displacements. The out-of-plane case is therefore further investigated in a spacecraft mass budget to determine the payload mass capacity. Finally, two transfers that enable a further improvement of the performance of hybrid sails for the out-of-plane case are optimized using a direct pseudo-spectral method: a seasonally transit between orbits displaced above and below the equatorial plane and a transit to a parking orbit when geostationary coverage is not needed. Both transfers are shown to require only a modest propellant budget, outweighing the improvements they can establish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1852-1866
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • displaced non-Keplerian orbits
  • displaced geostationary orbits
  • orbital dynamics
  • hybrid propulsion
  • solar electric propulsion
  • solar sailing


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