Picture of a sphere with binary code

Making Strathclyde research discoverable to the world...

The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde research outputs. It exposes Strathclyde's world leading Open Access research to many of the world's leading resource discovery tools, and from there onto the screens of researchers around the world.

Explore Strathclyde Open Access research content

Design of optimal Earth pole-sitter transfers using low-thrust propulsion

Heiligers, Jeannette and Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin and Biggs, James (2012) Design of optimal Earth pole-sitter transfers using low-thrust propulsion. Acta Astronautica, 79. pp. 253-268. ISSN 0094-5765

[img] PDF
Heiligers_J_et_al_Pure_Pole_Sitter_Transfers_Revised_Manuscript_18_Apr_2012.pdf - Draft Version

Download (3MB)

Abstract

Recent studies have shown the feasibility of an Earth pole-sitter mission using low-thrust propulsion. This mission concept involves a spacecraft following the Earth's polar axis to have a continuous, hemispherical view of one of the Earth's poles. Such a view will enhance future Earth observation and telecommunications for high latitude and polar regions. To assess the accessibility of the pole-sitter orbit, this paper investigates optimum Earth pole-sitter transfers employing low-thrust propulsion. A launch from low Earth orbit (LEO) by a Soyuz Fregat upper stage is assumed after which solar electric propulsion is used to transfer the spacecraft to the pole-sitter orbit. The objective is to minimize the mass in LEO for a given spacecraft mass to be inserted into the pole-sitter orbit. The results are compared with a ballistic transfer that exploits manifold-like trajectories that wind onto the pole-sitter orbit. It is shown that, with respect to the ballistic case, low-thrust propulsion can achieve significant mass savings in excess of 200 kg for a pole-sitter spacecraft of 1000 kg upon insertion. To finally obtain a full low-thrust transfer from LEO up to the pole-sitter orbit, the Fregat launch is replaced by a low-thrust, minimum time spiral, which provides further mass savings, but at the cost of an increased time of flight.