Hybrid low-thrust transfers to eight-shaped orbits for polar observation

Jeannette Heiligers, Matteo Ceriotti, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

2 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, transfers from low Earth orbit (LEO) to so-called eight-shaped orbits at the collinear libration points in the circular restricted three-body problem are investigated. The potential of these orbits (both natural and sail
displaced) for high-latitude observation and telecommunication has recently been established. The transfer is modelled by distinguishing between a near-Earth phase and an interplanetary phase. The near-Earth phase is first
assumed to be executed with the Soyuz Fregat upper-stage, which brings the spacecraft from LEO to a highly elliptic orbit. From there, the interplanetary phase is initiated which uses low-thrust propulsion to inject the spacecraft into
one of the eight-shaped orbit’s manifolds. Both solar electric propulsion (SEP), solar sailing and hybridised SEP and solar sailing are considered for this phase. The objective is to maximise the mass delivered to the eight-shaped orbit
starting from a realistic Soyuz launch vehicle performance into LEO. Optimal trajectories are obtained by solving the optimal control problem in the interplanetary phase with a direct pseudospectral method. The results show that (over the full range of propulsion techniques) 1564 to 1603 kg can be injected into a natural eight-shaped orbit. Within this relatively small range, hybrid propulsion performs best in terms of mass delivered to the eight-shaped orbit, while SEP enables the fastest transfer times. With the interplanetary phase optimised, the upper-stage near-Earth phase is replaced by a multi-revolution low-thrust spiral. Locally optimal control laws for the SEP thruster and solar sail are derived to minimise the time of flight in the spiral. Both pure SEP and hybrid spiral show a significant reduction in the mass required in LEO to deliver the spacecraft to the eight-shaped orbits. While hybrid propulsion did not stand
out for the use of an upper-stage near-Earth phase, it does for the use of a low-thrust spiral as it significantly reduces the spiral time with respect to the pure SEP case.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Event63rd International Astronautical Congress - Naples, Italy
Duration: 1 Oct 20125 Oct 2012


Conference63rd International Astronautical Congress


  • low-thrust propulsion
  • three body problem
  • interplanetary trajectory design
  • solar electric propulsion (SEP)
  • eight-shaped orbits
  • polar observation

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