Purdue University Graduate School
Hoffman_MS_Thesis_Final.pdf (20.9 MB)


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posted on 2023-04-27, 20:16 authored by Alexander Estes HoffmanAlexander Estes Hoffman

Secondary payloads have a rich and successful history of utilizing cheap rides to orbit to perform outstanding missions in Earth orbit, and more recently, in cislunar space and beyond. New launch vehicles, namely the Space Launch System (SLS), are increasing the science opportunity for rideshare class missions by providing regular service to the lunar vicinity. However, trajectory design in a multi-body regime brings a host of novel challenges, further exacerbated by constraints generated from the primary payload’s mission. Often, secondary payloads do not possess the fuel required to directly insert into lunar orbit and must instead perform a lunar flyby, traverse the Earth-Moon-Sun system, and later return to the lunar vicinity. This investigation develops a novel framework to construct low-cost, end-to-end lunar transfer trajectories for secondary payload missions. The proposed threephase approach provides unique insights into potential lunar transfer geometries. The phases consist of an arc from launch to initial perilune, an exterior transfer arc, and a lunar approach arc. The space of feasible transfers within each phase is determined through low-dimension grid searches and informed filtering techniques, while the problem of recombining the phases through differential corrections is kept tractable by reducing the dimensionality at each phase transition boundary. A sample mission demonstrates the trajectory design approach and example solutions are generated and discussed. Finally, alternate strategies are developed to both augment the analysis and for scenarios where the proposed three-phase technique does not deliver adequate solutions. The trajectory design methods described in this document are applicable to many upcoming secondary payload missions headed to lunar orbit, including spacecraft with only low-thrust, only high-thrust, or a combination of both. 


Purdue University Ross Fellowship


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kathleen Howell

Additional Committee Member 2

Carolin Frueh

Additional Committee Member 3

Dengfeng Sun