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Extension of Martian orbits using continuous low-thrust propulsion

Anderson, Pamela and Macdonald, Malcolm and Yen, Chen-wan L. (2012) Extension of Martian orbits using continuous low-thrust propulsion. In: 23rd Space Flight Dynamics Symposium, 2012-10-29 - 2012-11-02.

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There has recently been significant interest in exploration of the Martian surface and atmosphere with a view to future human exploration. Thus missions must be developed which are responsive to these scientific goals. This work therefore develops novel orbits around Mars using continuous low-thrust propulsion to enable new and unique investigations of the red planet. This paper considers the use of continuous acceleration, using Solar Electric Propulsion, to alter the critical inclination of Highly Elliptical Orbits away from the conventional values, to any inclination required to optimally fulfill the mission objectives. This allows the spacecraft to spend a large amount of time over a region of interest as a result of apoareion dwell, thus allowing enhanced opportunities for remote sensing. In addition to this, the extension of existing circular Sun-synchronous orbits is considered as well as the development of Sun-synchronous Highly Elliptical Orbits, which force the ascending node angle to rotate at the same rate as the mean rotation of the Sun, whilst maintaining a constant argument of perihelion over the orbit. Thus, allowing simplification of the spacecraft thermal environment. Notably, we can enable these orbits using existing Electric Propulsion technology.