Close planetary flybys are frequently employed as a technique to place spacecraft on extreme solar system trajectories that would otherwise require much larger booster vehicles or may not even be feasible when relying solely on chemical propulsion. The theoretical description of the flybys, referred to as gravity assists, is well established. However, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the physical processes occurring during these dynamical events. Radio-metric tracking data received from a number of spacecraft that experienced an Earth gravity assist indicate the presence of an unexpected energy change that happened during the flyby and cannot be explained by the standard methods of modern astrodynamics. This puzzling behavior of several spacecraft has become known as the flyby anomaly. We present the summary of the recent anomalous observations and discuss possible ways to resolve this puzzle.
KeywordsFlyby anomaly Gravitational experiments Spacecraft navigation
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