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Extension of highly elliptical Earth orbits using continuous low-thrust propulsion

Anderson, Pamela and Macdonald, Malcolm (2013) Extension of highly elliptical Earth orbits using continuous low-thrust propulsion. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 36 (1). pp. 282-292. ISSN 0731-5090

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The extension of highly elliptical orbits, with free selection of orbit period, using low thrust propulsion is investigated. These newly proposed orbits, termed Taranis orbits, are enabled by existing low-thrust propulsion technology, offering a radically new set of tools for mission design and facilitating new, novel Earth Observation science. One particular example considered herein, using general and special perturbation techniques, is the application of continuous low-thrust to alter the ‘critical inclination’ of an orbit from the natural values of 63.4deg or 116.6deg, to any inclination required to optimally fulfill the mission goals. This continuous acceleration is used to compensate for the drift in argument of perigee caused by Earth’s gravitational field. Pseudo-spectral optimization techniques are applied to the 90deg inclination Taranis orbit, generating fuel optimal low-thrust control profiles, with a fuel saving of ~ 4% from general perturbation results. This orbit provides an alternative solution for high latitude imaging from distances equivalent to geostationary orbits. Analysis shows that the orbit enables continuous, high elevation visibility of frigid and neighboring temperate regions using only three spacecraft, whereas a Molniya orbit would require in excess of fifteen spacecraft, thus enabling high quality imaging which would otherwise be prohibited using conventional orbits. Order of magnitude mission lifetimes for a range of mass fractions and specific impulses are also determined. Finally, a Strawman mass budget is developed, where the mission lifetimes for spacecraft with initial mass of 1000kg, 1500kg, and 2500kg, are found to be limited to 4.3 years, 6 years and 7.4 years respectively.

Item type: Article
ID code: 39589
Notes: Copyright © 2012 by Pamela Anderson. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission. Copies of this paper may be made for personal or internal use, on condition that the copier pay the $10.00 per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923; include the code 1533-3884/12 and $10.00 in correspondence with the CCC.
Keywords: elliptical orbit, low-thrust propulsion , Earth observation, high latitude observation, optimization techniques, Mechanical engineering and machinery, Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics, Aerospace Engineering, Control and Systems Engineering
Subjects: Technology > Mechanical engineering and machinery
Technology > Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Department: Faculty of Engineering > Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Technology and Innovation Centre > Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing
Depositing user: Pure Administrator
Date Deposited: 08 May 2012 10:39
Last modified: 05 Jan 2016 18:25
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