Low-thrust tour of the main belt asteroids

Di Carlo, Marilena and Vasile, Massimiliano and Dunlop, Jamie (2018) Low-thrust tour of the main belt asteroids. Advances in Space Research. ISSN 0273-1177 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2017.12.033)

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This work presents some initial results on a possible low-thrust tour of the main asteroid belt. The asteroids are visited through a series of fly-by’s to be completed within a given time-frame and limit on the mass of the spacecraft at launch. The asteroids to be visited are automatically selected out of a large database of possible candidates. The initial shortlist of targets is based on the Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) between the orbit of the asteroids in the database and the initial orbit of the spacecraft traversing the main belt. The final sequence is then obtained with an efficient deterministic branch and prune algorithm. The transfers between asteroids are designed using a low-thrust analytical model that provides a good estimation of the propellant consumption and transfer time. The mission analysis is completed with a study of the cost of the launch. In this paper two databases will be analysed: one containing only targets with a particular scientific relevance and one containing all available asteroids.