Survey of highly non-Keplerian orbits with low-thrust propulsion

Robert J. Mckay, Malcolm Macdonald, James Biggs, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)
210 Downloads (Pure)


Celestial mechanics has traditionally been concerned with orbital motion under the action of a conservative gravitational potential. In particular, the inverse square gravitational force due to the potential of a uniform, spherical mass leads to a family of conic section orbits, as determined by Isaac Newton, who showed that Kepler‟s laws were derivable from his theory of gravitation. While orbital motion under the action of a conservative gravitational potential leads to an array of problems with often complex and interesting solutions, the addition of non-conservative forces offers new avenues of investigation. In particular, non-conservative forces lead to a rich diversity of problems associated with the existence, stability and control of families of highly non-Keplerian orbits generated by a gravitational potential and a non-conservative force.
Highly non-Keplerian orbits can potentially have a broad range of practical applications across a number of different disciplines. This review aims to summarize the combined wealth of literature concerned with the dynamics, stability and control of highly non-Keplerian orbits for various low thrust propulsion devices, and to demonstrate some of these potential applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-666
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Non-Keplerian orbits
  • low-thrust propulsion


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