Low-Thrust Control of Lunar Orbits


In this paper, a technique for stationkeeping low-altitude lunar orbits using continuous low-thrust systems is presented. The method involves the use of a general performance index, which is designed to minimize the difference between the instantaneous orbital elements of a spacecraft and some desired set of orbital elements. Due to the generality of the controller design, the resultant controller can be applied to a variety of mission scenarios about various bodies in space. To minimize the designed performance index, a Sequential Quadratic Programming algorithm is used. The primary application of the general controller design in this study is the problem of generating and maintaining low-altitude, polar, Sun-synchronous orbits about the Moon. Such orbits are useful for lunar mapping missions, such as with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission which began in June of 2009. Results are presented demonstrating that lunar Sunsynchronous orbits can be maintained for extended durations of time with constant low-thrust levels, even in the presence of eclipse effects.

Meeting Name

2011 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Controller Designs; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters; Mapping Missions; Orbital Element; Performance Indices; Sequential Quadratic Programming Algorithm; Station-Keeping; Sun Synchronous Orbits

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2012 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2012

This document is currently not available here.