Hohmann spiral transfer with inclination change performed by low-thrust system

Owens, Steven Robert and Macdonald, Malcolm (2013) Hohmann spiral transfer with inclination change performed by low-thrust system. In: 23rd AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Conference, 2013-02-10 - 2013-02-14.

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    Abstract

    This paper investigates the Hohmann Spiral Transfer (HST), an orbit transfer method previously developed by the authors incorporating both high and low-thrust propulsion systems, using the low-thrust system to perform an inclination change as well as orbit transfer. The HST is similar to the bi-elliptic transfer as the high-thrust system is first used to propel the spacecraft beyond the target where it is used again to circularize at an intermediate orbit. The low-thrust system is then activated and, while maintaining this orbit altitude, used to change the orbit inclination to suit the mission specification. The low-thrust system is then used again to reduce the spacecraft altitude by spiraling in-toward the target orbit. An analytical analysis of the HST utilizing the low-thrust system for the inclination change is performed which allows a critical specific impulse ratio to be derived determining the point at which the HST consumes the same amount of fuel as the Hohmann transfer. A critical ratio is found for both a circular and elliptical initial orbit. These equations are validated by a numerical approach before being compared to the HST utilizing the high-thrust system to perform the inclination change. An additional critical ratio comparing the HST utilizing the low-thrust system for the inclination change with its high-thrust counterpart is derived and by using these three critical ratios together, it can be determined when each transfer offers the lowest fuel mass consumption. Initial analyses have shown the HST utilizing low-thrust inclination change to offer the greatest benefit at low R2 (R2 - R1) and large AI (AI > 30º). A novel numerical optimization process which could be used to optimize the trajectory is also introduced.