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Design of low-thrust gravity assist trajectories to Europa

Vasile, Massimiliano and Campagnola, Stefano (2009) Design of low-thrust gravity assist trajectories to Europa. JBIS, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 62 (1). pp. 15-31. ISSN 0007-084X

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This paper presents the design of a mission to Europa using solar electric propulsion as main source of thrust. A direct transcription method based on Finite Elements in Time was used for the design and optimisation of the entire low-thrust gravity assist transfer from the Earth to Europa. Prior to that, a global search algorithm was used to generate a set of suitable first guess solutions for the transfer to Jupitor, and for the capture in the Jovian system. In particular, a fast deterministic search algorithm was developed to find the most promising set of swing-bys to reach Jupitor. A second fast search algorithm was developed to find the best sequence of swing-bys of the Jovian moons. After introducing the global search algorithms and the direct transcription through Finite Elements in Time, the paper presents a number of first guess solutions and a fully optimised transfer from the Earth to Europa.