Design of optimal transfers between North and South Pole-sitter orbits

Heiligers, J., Ceriotti, M. , McInnes, C.R. and Biggs, J.D. (2012) Design of optimal transfers between North and South Pole-sitter orbits. In: 22nd AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechancis Meeting, Charleston, SC, USA, 29 Jan - 2 Feb 2012, pp. 897-916.

89730.pdf - Submitted Version


Publisher's URL:


Recent studies have shown the feasibility of an Earth pole-sitter mission, where a spacecraft follows the Earth’s polar axis to have a continuous, hemispherical view of one of the Earth’s Poles. However, due to the tilt of the polar axis, the North and South Poles are alternately situated in darkness for long periods dur-ing the year. This significantly constrains observations and decreases mission scientific return. This paper therefore investigates transfers between north and south pole-sitter orbits before the start of the Arctic and Antarctic winters to maximize scientific return by observing the polar regions only when lit. Clearly, such a transfer can also be employed for the sole purpose of visiting both the North and South Poles with one single spacecraft during one single mission. To enable such a novel transfer, two types of propulsion are proposed, including so-lar electric propulsion (SEP) and a hybridization of SEP with solar sailing. A di-rect optimization method based on pseudospectral transcription is used to find both transfers that minimize the SEP propellant consumption and transfers that trade-off SEP propellant consumption and observation time of the Poles. Also, a feedback control is developed to account for non-ideal properties of the solar sail. It is shown that, for all cases considered, hybrid low-thrust propulsion out-performs the pure SEP case, while enabling a transfer that would not be feasible with current solar sail technology.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Additional Information:This paper was originally presented at the 22nd AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting held January 29 to February 2, 2012, Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A., and was originally published in the American Astronautical Society (AAS) publication Spaceflight Mechanics 2012, edited by James V. McAdams, David P. McKinley, Matthew M. Berry and Keith L. Jenkins, American Astronautical Society (AAS) Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, Volume 143, 2012, pp. 897-916 (Copyright C 2012 by American Astronautical Society Publications Office, P.O. Box 28130, San Diego, CA 92198, U.S.A.; Web Site:
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ceriotti, Dr Matteo
Authors: Heiligers, J., Ceriotti, M., McInnes, C.R., and Biggs, J.D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 American Astronautical Society
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record