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Generation of optimal trajectories for Earth hybrid pole sitters

Ceriotti, Matteo and McInnes, Colin (2011) Generation of optimal trajectories for Earth hybrid pole sitters. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 34 (3). pp. 847-859. ISSN 1533-3884

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Abstract

A pole-sitter orbit is a closed path that is constantly above one of the Earth's poles, by means of continuous low thrust. This work proposes to hybridize solar sail propulsion and solar electric propulsion (SEP) on the same spacecraft, to enable such a pole-sitter orbit. Locally-optimal control laws are found with a semi-analytical inverse method, starting from a trajectory that satisfies the pole-sitter condition in the Sun-Earth circular restricted three-body problem. These solutions are subsequently used as first guess to find optimal orbits, using a direct method based on pseudospectral transcription. The orbital dynamics of both the pure SEP case and the hybrid case are investigated and compared. It is found that the hybrid spacecraft allows savings on propellant mass fraction. Finally, it is shown that for sufficiently long missions, a hybrid pole-sitter, based on mid-term technology, enables a consistent reduction in the launch mass for a given payload, with respect to a pure SEP spacecraft.