Station-keeping and orbital transfers in the vicinity of the Moon exploiting quasi-periodic orbit dynamics

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Future manned space exploration sets a focus on the long-term goal of landing humans on a foreign planet in particular on Mars. Translating this ambitious plan into practice is a major challenge, and beforehand several milestones have to be achieved. One major objective in the years ahead will be a return to the vicinity of the Moon with robotic exploration missions and crewed space vehicles. Not only is returning to the Moon an inspiring challenge but also and more importantly a return to the Moon opens the possibility to prove new technologies, gain scientific knowledge, and identify key requirements for further endeavours.As a consequence it is possible that traditional mission scenarios considering the use of low lunar orbits or transfer arcs to the surface are replaced by new mission scenarios exploiting the potentialities of the collinear Earth-Moon libration point orbits. In addition, solutions considering multiple coordinated spacecraft with disaggregated payloads are becoming more and more interesting for a variety of space missions. The cooperation between spacecraft will increase redundancy and will enable new navigation and remote sensing solutions that can hardly be achieved with single monolithic spacecraft.A key element of missions considering the collaborative interaction among groups of spacecraft is the ability to transfer them between orbits. This might include rendezvous and docking for on-orbit assembling. In this context, the vision is to have a transport system in the Earth-Moon environment that allows transferring components from the Earth to the Moon and assembling large infrastructures in the vicinity of the Moon.This infrastructure serves as stepping stone or gateway to the exploration of the solar system. A fundamental understanding of existing orbits and transfer possibilities becomes critical for exploring and accessing the vicinity of the Moon. A transport system in this described context offers regular access to all orbits between the Earth and the Moon, which includes transfers from the Earth to the Moon, transfers among orbits in the proximity of the Moon and transfers from the Moon to interplanetary space.From a mission design point of view it is paramount to understand the intricate interaction between the Earth's and the Moon's gravity field. Projects also benefit from the unique dynamical environment prevailing at the libration point regions enabling to choose from a huge variety of operational orbits with greatly varying parameters.The utilisation of quasi-periodic orbits increase the flexibility in planning future missions, reduces the complexity of long-term space missions by enabling larger windows for manoeuvre execution for orbital transfers. Furthermore, properties of operational orbits might be changed by manoeuvres enabling to achieve mission objectives. Based on this assumption a variety of problems are addressed in this work. Numerical tools are presented to study and assess quasi-periodic bounded orbits in the vicinity of the Moon, in particular libration point and distant periodic orbits.On the basis of a description of quasi-periodic orbits, mission analysis aspects studied are the identification of suitable operational orbits, transfer opportunities among those orbits, and the handling of quasi-periodic orbits in a high-fidelity dynamical model. A method is presented to systematically compute any type of transfer either for changing properties of the operational orbit or to re-phase spacecraft along the orbit. The proposed orbital transfers utilise hyperbolic invariant manifolds of orbits that exist in a three-body regime. Parameters have been identified that have a substantial impact on the existent range of orbits and figure of merits are presented for reference scenarios that comprises the elements of an exploration mission travelling to L2 libration point orbits in the pro
Date of Award27 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsEuropean Space Agency ESA
SupervisorMassimiliano Vasile (Supervisor) & James Biggs (Supervisor)

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