More and more stringent and unique mission requirements motivate to exploring solutions, already in the preliminary mission analysis phase, going far beyond the classical chemical-Keplerian approach.
The present dissertation deals with the analysis and the design of highly non linear orbits arising both from the inclusion of different gravitational sources in the dynamical models, and from the use of electric system for
primary propulsion purposes.
The equilibrium of different gravitational fields, on one hand, permits unique transfer solutions and operational orbits, on the other hand, the high thrust efficiency, characteristic of an electric device, reduces the propellant
mass required to accomplish the transfer. Each of these models, and even better their combination, enables trajectories able to satisfy mission requirements not otherwise met, first of all to reduce the propellant mass fraction of a given mission.
The inclusion of trajectory arcs powered by an electric thruster, providing a low thrust for extended duration, makes essential the use of optimal control theory in order to govern the thrust law and thus design the required transfers
so as to minimizing/maximizing specific indexes.
The goal is, firstly, to review the possible advantages and the main limits of dynamical models and, afterward, to define methodologies to preliminary design non-Keplerian missions both in interplanetary contexts and in the Earth-Moon system.
Special emphasis is given to the study of dynamical systems through which the main features of the Circular Restricted Three Body Model (the
first one among the non-Keplerian models) can be identified, implemented and used.
Purely ballistic solutions enabled by this model are first independently explored and after considered as target orbits for electric thrusting phases.
Electric powered arcs are used to link ballistic phases arising from the balancing of different gravitational influences. This concept is applied both for the exploration of planetary regions and for interplanetary transfer purposes.
Together with low thrust missions to selenocentric orbits designed taking into
account both the Earth and the Moon gravity, also transfer solutions toward periodic orbits moving in the Earth-Moon region are presented.
These are designed considering electric thrusting arcs and ballistic segments exploring for free specific space regions.
In brief, theoretical models deriving from dynamical system theory and from optimal control theory are employed to design non conventional orbits in non linear astrodynamics models.