Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2008 (2008), Article ID 525930, 30 pages
Research Article

A First-Order Analytical Theory for Optimal Low-Thrust Limited-Power Transfers between Arbitrary Elliptical Coplanar Orbits

Sandro da Silva Fernandes and Francisco das Chagas Carvalho

Departamento de Matemática, Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica, 12228-900 São José dos Campos, SP, Brazil

Received 7 March 2008; Accepted 15 May 2008

Academic Editor: Alexander P. Seyranian

Copyright © 2008 Sandro da Silva Fernandes and Francisco das Chagas Carvalho. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A complete first-order analytical solution, which includes the short periodic terms, for the problem of optimal low-thrust limited-power transfers between arbitrary elliptic coplanar orbits in a Newtonian central gravity field is obtained through canonical transformation theory. The optimization problem is formulated as a Mayer problem of optimal control theory with Cartesian elements—position and velocity vectors—as state variables. After applying the Pontryagin maximum principle and determining the maximum Hamiltonian, classical orbital elements are introduced through a Mathieu transformation. The short periodic terms are then eliminated from the maximum Hamiltonian through an infinitesimal canonical transformation built through Hori method. Closed-form analytical solutions are obtained for the average canonical system by solving the Hamilton-Jacobi equation through separation of variables technique. For transfers between close orbits a simplified solution is straightforwardly derived by linearizing the new Hamiltonian and the generating function obtained through Hori method.