Purdue University Graduate School
Gupta_PhD_Dissertation.pdf (34.37 MB)

Navigating Chaos: Resonant Orbits for Sustaining Cislunar Operations

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posted on 2024-04-26, 15:54 authored by Maaninee GuptaMaaninee Gupta

The recent and upcoming increase in spaceflight missions to the lunar vicinity necessitates methodologies to enable operations beyond the Earth. In particular, there is a pressing need for a Space Domain Awareness (SDA) and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) architecture that encompasses the realm of space beyond the sub-geosynchronous region to sustain humanity's long-term presence in that region. Naturally, the large distances in the cislunar domain restrict access rapid and economical access from the Earth. In addition, due to the long ranges and inconsistent visibility, the volume contained within the orbit of the Moon is inadequately observed from Earth-based instruments. As such, space-based assets to supplement ground-based infrastructure are required. The need for space-based assets to support a sustained presence is further complicated by the challenging dynamics that manifest in cislunar space. Multi-body dynamical models are necessary to sufficiently model and predict the motion of any objects that operate in the space between the Earth and the Moon. The current work seeks to address these challenges in dynamical modeling and cislunar accessibility via the exploration of resonant orbits. These types of orbits, that are commensurate with the lunar sidereal period, are constructed in the Earth-Moon Circular Restricted Three-Body Problem (CR3BP) and validated in the Higher-Fidelity Ephemeris Model (HFEM). The expansive geometries and energy options supplied by the orbits are favorable for achieving recurring access between the Earth and the lunar vicinity. Sample orbits in prograde resonance are explored to accommodate circumlunar access from underlying cislunar orbit structures via Poincaré mapping techniques. Orbits in retrograde resonance, due to their operational stability, are employed in the design of space-based observer constellations that naturally maintain their relative configuration over successive revolutions.

Sidereal resonant orbits that are additionally commensurate with the lunar synodic period are identified. Such orbits, along with possessing geometries inherent to sidereal resonant behavior, exhibit periodic alignments with respect to the Sun in the Earth-Moon rotating frame. This characteristic renders the orbits suitable for hosting space-based sensors that, in addition to naturally avoiding eclipses, maintain visual custody of targets in the cislunar domain. For orbits that are not eclipse-favorable, a penumbra-avoidance path constraint is implemented to compute baseline trajectories that avoid Earth and Moon eclipse events. Constellations of observers in both sidereal and sidereal-synodic resonant orbits are designed for cislunar SSA applications. Sample trajectories are assessed for the visibility of various targets in the cislunar volume, and connectivity relative to zones of interest in Earth-Moon plane. The sample constellations and observer trajectories demonstrate the utility of resonant orbits for various applications to sustain operations in cislunar space.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Kathleen C. Howell

Additional Committee Member 2

Carolin E. Frueh

Additional Committee Member 3

David Arnas Martinez

Additional Committee Member 4

Thomas A. Pavlak