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Transfer design methodology between neighborhoods of planetary moons in the circular restricted three-body problem

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posted on 19.12.2021, 18:19 by David Canales GarciaDavid Canales Garcia
There is an increasing interest in future space missions devoted to the exploration of key moons in the Solar system. These many different missions may involve libration point orbits as well as trajectories that satisfy different endgames in the vicinities of the moons. To this end, an efficient design strategy to produce low-energy transfers between the vicinities of adjacent moons of a planetary system is introduced that leverages the dynamics in these multi-body systems. Such a design strategy is denoted as the moon-to-moon analytical transfer (MMAT) method. It consists of a general methodology for transfer design between the vicinities of the moons in any given system within the context of the circular restricted three-body problem, useful regardless of the orbital planes in which the moons reside. A simplified model enables analytical constraints to efficiently determine the feasibility of a transfer between two different moons moving in the vicinity of a common planet. Subsequently, the strategy builds moon-to-moon transfers based on invariant manifold and transit orbits exploiting some analytical techniques. The strategy is applicable for direct as well as indirect transfers that satisfy the analytical constraints. The transition of the transfers into higher-fidelity ephemeris models confirms the validity of the MMAT method as a fast tool to provide possible transfer options between two consecutive moons.
The current work includes sample applications of transfers between different orbits and planetary systems. The method is efficient and identifies optimal solutions. However, for certain orbital geometries, the direct transfer cannot be constructed because the invariant manifolds do not intersect (due to their mutual inclination, distance, and/or orbital phase). To overcome this difficulty, specific strategies are proposed that introduce intermediate Keplerian arcs and additional impulsive maneuvers to bridge the gaps between trajectories that connect any two moons. The updated techniques are based on the same analytical methods as the original MMAT concept. Therefore, they preserve the optimality of the previous methodology. The basic strategy and the significant additions are demonstrated through a number of applications for transfer scenarios of different types in the Galilean, Uranian, Saturnian and Martian systems. Results are compared with the traditional Lambert arcs. The propellant and time-performance for the transfers are also illustrated and discussed. As far as the exploration of Phobos and Deimos is concerned, a specific design framework that generates transfer trajectories between the Martian moons while leveraging resonant orbits is also introduced. Mars-Deimos resonant orbits that offer repeated flybys of Deimos and arrive at Mars-Phobos libration point orbits are investigated, and a nominal mission scenario with transfer trajectories connecting the two is presented. The MMAT method is used to select the appropriate resonant orbits, and the associated impulsive transfer costs are analyzed. The trajectory concepts are also validated in a higher-fidelity ephemeris model.
Finally, an efficient and general design strategy for transfers between planetary moons that fulfill specific requirements is also included. In particular, the strategy leverages Finite-Time Lyapunov Exponent (FTLE) maps within the context of the MMAT scheme. Incorporating these two techniques enables direct transfers between moons that offer a wide variety of trajectory patterns and endgames designed in the circular restricted three-body problem, such as temporary captures, transits, takeoffs and landings. The technique is applicable to several mission scenarios. Additionally, an efficient strategy that aids in the design of tour missions that involve impulsive transfers between three moons located in their true orbital planes is also included. The result is a computationally efficient technique that allows three-moon tours designed within the context of the circular restricted three-body problem. The method is demonstrated for a Ganymede->Europa->Io tour.


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

James M. Longuski

Additional Committee Member 4

Martin Corless