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Published 2009 | Accepted Version
Book Section - Chapter Open

Invariant manifolds, discrete mechanics, and trajectory design for a mission to Titan


With an environment comparable to that of primordial Earth, a surface strewn with liquid hydrocarbon lakes, and an atmosphere denser than that of any other moon in the solar system, Saturn's largest moon Titan is a treasure trove of potential scientific discovery and is the target of a proposed NASA mission scheduled for launch in roughly one decade. A chief consideration associated with the design of any such mission is the constraint imposed by fuel limitations that accompany the spacecraft's journey between celestial bodies. In this study, we explore the use of patched three-body models in conjunction with a discrete mechanical optimization algorithm for the design of a fuel-efficient Saturnian moon tour focusing on Titan. In contrast to the use of traditional models for trajectory design such as the patched conic approximation, we exploit subtleties of the three-body problem, a classic problem from celestial mechanics that asks for the motion of three masses in space under mutual gravitational interaction, in order to slash fuel costs. In the process, we demonstrate the aptitude of the DMOC (Discrete Mechanics and Optimal Control) optimization algorithm in handling celestial mechanical trajectory optimization problems.

Additional Information

© 2009 American Astronautical Society. The authors wish to thank the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program and the Aerospace Corporation for their financial support.

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Accepted Version - Gawlik2009p10000Astrodynamics_2005_Vol_123_Pts_1-3.pdf


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August 20, 2023
January 12, 2024