A lunar cargo mission design strategy using variable low thrust

Young Joo Song, Sang Young Park, Kyu Hong Choi, Eun Sup Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


A design technique for a near optimal, Earth-Moon transfer trajectory using continuous variable low thrust is proposed. For the Earth-Moon transfer trajectory, analytical and numerical methods are combined to formulate the trajectory optimization problem. The basic concept of the proposed technique is to utilize analytically optimized solutions when the spacecraft is flying near a central body where the transfer trajectories are nearly circular shaped, and to use a numerical optimization method to match the spacecraft's states to establish a final near optimal trajectory. The plasma thruster is considered as the main propulsion system which is currently being developed for crewed/cargo missions for interplanetary flight. The gravitational effects of the 3rd body and geopotential effects are included during the trajectory optimization process. With the proposed design technique, Earth-Moon transfer trajectory is successfully designed with the plasma thruster having a thrust direction sequence of "fixed-varied-fixed" and a thrust acceleration sequence of "constant-variable-constant". As this strategy has the characteristics of a lesser computational load, little sensitivity to initial conditions, and obtaining solutions quickly, this method can be utilized in the initial scoping studies for mission design and analysis. Additionally, derived near optimal trajectory solution can be used as for initial trajectory solution for further detailed optimization problem. The demonstrated results will give various insights into future lunar cargo trajectories using plasma thrusters with continuous variable low thrust, establishing approximate costs as well as trajectory characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1406
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2009 May 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) through “Development of Preliminary Lunar Mission Trajectory Design Software” project (No. FR07510). The authors sincerely thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments and suggestions with regard to improving the quality of this manuscript.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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