Optimization of space orbits design for Earth orbiting missions

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


In Earth orbiting space missions, the orbit selection dictates the mission parameters like the ground resolution, the area coverage, and the frequency of coverage parameters. To achieve desired mission parameters, usually Earth regions of interest are identified and the spacecraft is maneuvered continuously to visit only these regions. This method is expensive, it requires a propulsion system onboard the spacecraft, working throughout the mission lifetime. It also requires a longer time to cover all the regions of interest, due to the very weak thrust forces compared to that of the Earth's gravitational field. This paper presents a methodology to design natural orbits, in which the regions of interest are visited without the use of propulsion systems, depending only on the gravitational forces. The problem is formulated as an optimization problem. A genetic algorithm along with a second order gradient method is implemented for optimization. The design process takes into consideration the gravitational second zonal harmonic, and hence allows for the design of repeated Sun-synchronous orbits. The field of view of the payload is also taken into consideration in the optimization process. Numerical results are presented that demonstrates the efficiency of the proposed method.

Publication Title

Acta Astronautica