Non-Keplerian orbits using low thrust, high ISP propulsion systems

Robert McKay, Malcolm Macdonald, Francois Bosquillon de Frescheville, Massimiliano Vasile, Colin McInnes, James Biggs

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
188 Downloads (Pure)


The technology of high ISP propulsion systems with long lifetime and low thrust is improving, and opens up numerous possibilities for future missions. The use of continuous thrust can be applied in all directions including prependicular to the flight direction to force the spacecraft out of a natural orbit (or A orbit) into a displaced orbit (a non-Keplerian or B orbit): such orbits could have a diverse range of potential applications. Using the equations of motion we generate a catalogue of these B orbits corresponding to displaced orbits about the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, Phobos and Deimos, the dwarf planet Ceres, and Saturn. For each system and a given thrust, contours both in and perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic are produced in the rotating frame, in addition to an equithrust surface. Together these illustrate the possible domain of B orbits for low thrust values between 0 and 300mN. Further, the required thrust vector orientation for the B orbit is obtained and illustrated. The sub-category of solar sail enabled missions is also considered. Such a catalogue of B orbits enables an efficient method of indentifying regions of possible displaced orbits for potential use in future missions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2009
Event60th International Astronautical Congress - Daejeon, Korea
Duration: 12 Oct 200916 Oct 2009


Conference60th International Astronautical Congress
CityDaejeon, Korea


  • high ISP propulsion systems
  • natural orbit
  • non-Keplerian orbit
  • rotating frame
  • equithrust surface
  • solar sail


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