Displaced geostationary orbits using hybrid low-thrust propulsion

Jeannette Heiligers, Colin McInnes, James Biggs, Matteo Ceriotti

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26 Citations (Scopus)
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In this paper, displaced geostationary orbits using hybrid low-thrust propulsion, a complementary combination of Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) and solar sailing, are investigated to increase the capacity of the geostationary ring that is starting to become congested. The SEP propellant consumption is minimized in order to maximize the mission lifetime by deriving semi-analytical formulae for the optimal steering laws for the SEP and solar sail accelerations. By considering the spacecraft mass budget, the performance is also expressed in terms of payload mass capacity. The analyses are performed both for the use of pure SEP and hybrid low-thrust propulsion to allow for a comparison. It is found that hybrid low-thrust control outperforms the pure SEP case both in terms of payload mass capacity and mission lifetime for all displacements considered. Hybrid low-thrust propulsion enables payloads of 255 to 487 kg to be maintained in a 35 km displaced orbit for 10 to 15 years. Adding the influence of the J2 and J22 terms of the Earth’s gravity field has a small effect on this lifetime, which becomes almost negligible for small values of the sail lightness number. Finally, two SEP transfers that allow for an improvement in the performance of hybrid low-thrust control are optimized for the propellant consumption by solving the accompanying optimal control problem using a direct pseudospectral method. The first type of transfer enables a transit between orbits displaced above and below the equatorial plane, while the second type of transfer enables customized service for which a spacecraft is transferred to a Keplerian parking orbit when geostationary coverage is not needed. While the latter requires a modest propellant budget, the first type of transfer comes at the cost of an almost negligible SEP propellant consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-67
Number of pages17
JournalActa Astronautica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012
Event61st International Astronautical Congress 2010, IAC 2010 - Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 27 Sept 20101 Oct 2010


  • displaced non-Keplerian orbits
  • geostationary orbit
  • solar sailing
  • hybrid low-thrust propulsion
  • trajectory optimization


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