Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Mechanics (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Ossama Omar Abdelkhalik


The intent of the work presented in this thesis is to show that relativistic perturbations should be considered in the same manner as well known perturbations currently taken into account in planet-satellite systems. It is also the aim of this research to show that relativistic perturbations are comparable to standard perturbations in speciffc force magnitude and effects. This work would have been regarded as little more then a curiosity to most engineers until recent advancements in space propulsion methods { e.g. the creation of a artiffcial neutron stars, light sails, and continuous propulsion techniques. These cutting-edge technologies have the potential to thrust the human race into interstellar, and hopefully intergalactic, travel in the not so distant future.

The relativistic perturbations were simulated on two orbit cases: (1) a general orbit and (2) a Molniya type orbit. The simulations were completed using Matlab's ODE45 integration scheme. The methods used to organize, execute, and analyze these simulations are explained in detail. The results of the simulations are presented in graphical and statistical form. The simulation data reveals that the speciffc forces that arise from the relativistic perturbations do manifest as variations in the classical orbital elements. It is also apparent from the simulated data that the speciffc forces do exhibit similar magnitudes and effects that materialize from commonly considered perturbations that are used in trajectory design, optimization, and maintenance.

Due to the similarities in behavior of relativistic versus non-relativistic perturbations, a case is made for the development of a fully relativistic formulation for the trajectory design and trajectory optimization problems. This new framework would afford the possibility of illuminating new more optimal solutions to the aforementioned problems that do not arise in current formulations. This type of reformulation has already showed promise when the previously unknown Space Superhighways arose as a optimal solution when classical astrodynamics was reformulated using geometric mechanics.