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Earth-Mars transfers through Moon distant retrograde orbits

Conte, Davide and Di Carlo, Marilena and Ho, Koki and Spencer, David B. and Vasile, Massimiliano (2018) Earth-Mars transfers through Moon distant retrograde orbits. Acta Astronautica, 143. pp. 372-379. ISSN 0094-5765

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the trajectory design which is relevant for missions that would exploit the use of asteroid mining in stable cis-lunar orbits to facilitate deep space missions, specifically human Mars exploration. Assuming that a refueling “gas station” is present at a given lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO), ways of departing from the Earth to Mars via that DRO are analyzed. Thus, the analysis and results presented in this paper add a new cis-lunar departure orbit for Earth-Mars missions. Porkchop plots depicting the required C3 at launch, v∞ at arrival, Time of Flight (TOF), and total ΔV for various DRO departure and Mars arrival dates are created and compared with results obtained for low ΔV Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to Mars trajectories. The results show that propellant-optimal trajectories from LEO to Mars through a DRO have higher overall mission ΔV due to the additional stop at the DRO. However, they have lower Initial Mass in LEO (IMLEO) and thus lower gear ratio as well as lower TOF than direct LEO to Mars transfers. This results in a lower overall spacecraft dry mass that needs to be launched into space from Earth's surface.