Orbital dynamics of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft under the influence of J2 and solar radiation pressure

Camilla Colombo, Charlotte Lucking, Colin McInnes

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This paper investigates the effect of planetary oblateness and solar radiation pressure on the orbit of high area-to-mass spacecraft. A planar Hamiltonian model shows the existence of equilibrium orbits with the orbit apogee pointing towards or away from the Sun. These solutions are numerically continued to non-zero inclinations and considering the obliquity of the ecliptic plane relative to the equator. Quasi-frozen orbits are identified in eccentricity, inclination and angle between the Sun-line and the orbit perigee. The long-term evolution of these orbits is then verified through numerical integration. A set of ‘heliotropic’ orbits with apogee pointing in direction of the Sun is proposed for enhancing imaging and telecommunication on the day side of the Earth. The effects of J2 and solar radiation pressure are exploited to obtain a passive rotation of the apsides line following the Sun; moreover the effect of solar radiation pressure enables such orbits at higher eccentricities with respect to the J2 only case.
Original languageEnglish
PagesArticle IAC-11.C1.4.8
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2011
Event62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011 - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 3 Oct 20117 Oct 2011


Conference62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town


  • solar radiation pressure
  • J2
  • frozen orbit
  • heliotropic orbit
  • antiheliotropic orbit
  • SpaceChip
  • ChipSat
  • high area-to-mass spacecraft
  • sun-synchronous


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