High area-to-mass ratio hybrid propulsion Earth to Moon transfers

Willem Johan Van Der Weg, Massimiliano Vasile

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

2 Citations (Scopus)
204 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the design of transfers that are useful to micro or nano spacecraft with high area-to-mass ratio, propelled by a simple propulsion engine (such as chemical with a specifc impulse ca. 100 to 300 s or arcjet/resistojet), and possessing relatively small solar reflective panels to provide power and a small thrust due to solar radiation pressure. This type of transfer is becoming of greater interest as advances in structures, materials, and small spacecraft design & propulsion are made. Such a hybrid design especially offers possibilities of cheaply exploring the Moon using multiple vehicles. With this small hybrid design, interior transfers in the circular restricted 3-body problem between the pair of primary and secondary masses (e.g. the Earth and Moon) are attempted using solar radiation pressure and multiple small impulses. The source of the outside solar radiation pressure is modeled using an external source rotating about – and in the plane of – the co-rotating set of primary and secondary masses. Starting from a GTO about the primary mass a basic optimization method of sequences of manoeuvres is used to achieve the transfer, where the segments are patched together using ideally small maneuvers. The spacecraft coasting arc is controlled by a number of locally optimal control laws to optimize performance while minimizing computational cost. The spacecraft hops onto a stable invariant manifold leading to the system’s Lagrange L1 point after successive small maneuvers and coasting arcs. Following connection with a manifold and subsequent arrival at a periodic orbit at L1, temporary or permanent capture around the Moon can be performed using the remaining resources at hand.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Event63rd International Astronautical Congress - Naples, Italy
Duration: 1 Oct 20125 Oct 2012


Conference63rd International Astronautical Congress


  • cubeSat mission
  • restricted 3-body problem
  • light pressure


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