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Orbital dynamics of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft with J2 and solar radiation pressure for novel Earth observation and communication services

Colombo, Camilla and Lucking, Charlotte and McInnes, Colin (2012) Orbital dynamics of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft with J2 and solar radiation pressure for novel Earth observation and communication services. Acta Astronautica, 81 (1). pp. 137-150. ISSN 0094-5765

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    Abstract

    This paper investigates the effect of planetary oblateness and solar radiation pressure on the orbits of high area-to-mass spacecraft. A planar Hamiltonian model shows the existence of equilibrium orbits with the orbit apogee pointing towards or away from the Sun. These solutions are numerically continued to non-zero inclinations and considering the obliquity of the ecliptic plane relative to the equator. Quasi-frozen orbits are identified in eccentricity, inclination and the angle between the Sun-line and the orbit perigee. The long-term evolution of these orbits is then verified through numerical integration. A set of ‘heliotropic’ orbits with apogee pointing in the direction of the Sun is proposed for enhancing imaging and telecommunication on the day side of the Earth. The effects of J2 and solar radiation pressure are exploited to obtain a passive rotation of the apsides line following the Sun; moreover the effect of solar radiation pressure enables such orbits at higher eccentricities with respect to the J2 only case.