Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 905209, 20 pages
Research Article

Low-Thrust Orbital Transfers in the Two-Body Problem

1Space Research Institute (IKI) RAS, Moscow, Russia
2Division of Space Mechanics and Control, National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Av dos Astronautas 1758, Jd. da Granja, São José dos Campos, SP 12227-010, Brazil

Received 6 December 2011; Accepted 6 February 2012

Academic Editor: Tadashi Yokoyama

Copyright © 2012 A. A. Sukhanov and A. F. B. A. Prado. 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.


Low-thrust transfers between given orbits within the two-body problem are considered; the thrust is assumed power limited. A simple method for obtaining the transfer trajectories based on the linearization of the motion near reference orbits is suggested. Required calculation accuracy can be reached by means of use of a proper number of the reference orbits. The method may be used in the case of a large number of the orbits around the attracting center; no averaging is necessary in this case. The suggested method also is applicable to the cases of partly given final orbit and if there are constraints on the thrust direction. The method gives an optimal solution to the linearized problem which is not optimal for the original nonlinear problem; the difference between the optimal solutions to the original and linearized problems is estimated using a numerical example. Also examples illustrating the method capacities are given.