Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Ossama Abdelkhalik


With the insatiable curiosity of human beings to explore the universe and our solar system, it is essential to benefit from larger propulsion capabilities to execute efficient transfers and carry more scientific equipment. In the field of space trajectory optimization the fundamental advances in using low-thrust propulsion and exploiting the multi-body dynamics has played pivotal role in designing efficient space mission trajectories. The former provides larger cumulative momentum change in comparison with the conventional chemical propulsion whereas the latter results in almost ballistic trajectories with negligible amount of propellant. However, the problem of space trajectory design translates into an optimal control problem which is, in general, time-consuming and very difficult to solve.

Therefore, the goal of the thesis is to address the above problem by developing a methodology to simplify and facilitate the process of finding initial low-thrust trajectories in both two-body and multi-body environments. This initial solution will not only provide mission designers with a better understanding of the problem and solution but also serves as a good initial guess for high-fidelity optimal control solvers and increases their convergence rate. Almost all of the high-fidelity solvers enjoy the existence of an initial guess that already satisfies the equations of motion and some of the most important constraints. Despite the nonlinear nature of the problem, it is sought to find a robust technique for a wide range of typical low-thrust transfers with reduced computational intensity.

Another important aspect of our developed methodology is the representation of low-thrust trajectories by Fourier series with which the number of design variables reduces significantly. Emphasis is given on simplifying the equations of motion to the possible extent and avoid approximating the controls. These facts contribute to speeding up the solution finding procedure. Several example applications of two and three-dimensional two-body low-thrust transfers are considered. In addition, in the multi-body dynamic, and in particular the restricted-three-body dynamic, several Earth-to-Moon low-thrust transfers are investigated.