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Automatic trajectory planning for low-thrust active removal mission in Low-Earth Orbit

Di Carlo, Marilena and Romero Martin, Juan Manuel and Vasile, Massimiliano (2017) Automatic trajectory planning for low-thrust active removal mission in Low-Earth Orbit. Advances in Space Research, 59 (5). pp. 1234-1258. ISSN 0273-1177

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In this paper two strategies are proposed to de-orbit up to 10 non-cooperative objects per year from the region within 800 and 1400 km altitude in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The underlying idea is to use a single servicing spacecraft to de-orbit several objects applying two different approaches. The first strategy is analogous to the Traveling Salesman Problem: the servicing spacecraft rendezvous with multiple objects in order to physically attach a de-orbiting kit that reduces the perigee of the orbit. The second strategy is analogous to the Vehicle Routing Problem: the servicing spacecraft rendezvous and docks with an object, spirals it down to a lower altitude orbit, undocks, and then spirals up to the next target. In order to maximise the number of de-orbited objects with minimum propellant consumption, an optimal sequence of targets is identified using a bio-inspired incremental automatic planning and scheduling discrete optimisation algorithm. The optimisation of the resulting sequence is realised using a direct transcription method based on an asymptotic analytical solution of the perturbed Keplerian motion. The analytical model takes into account the perturbations deriving from the $J_2$ gravitational effect and the atmospheric drag.