CEAS Space Journal

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 243–256 | Cite as

A new method for optimization of low-thrust gravity-assist sequences

  • V. MaiwaldEmail author
Original Paper


Recently missions like Hayabusa and Dawn have shown the relevance and benefits of low-thrust spacecraft concerning the exploration of our solar system. In general, the efficiency of low-thrust propulsion is one means of improving mission payload mass. At the same time, gravity-assist maneuvers can serve as mission enablers, as they have the capability to provide “free energy.” A combination of both, gravity-assist and low-thrust propulsion, has the potential to generally improve mission performance, i.e. planning and optimization of gravity-assist sequences for low-thrust missions is a desirable asset. Currently no established methods exist to include the gravity-assist partners as optimization variable for low-thrust missions. The present paper explains how gravity-assists are planned and optimized, including the gravity-assist partners, for high-thrust missions and discusses the possibility to transfer the established method, based on the Tisserand Criterion, to low-thrust missions. It is shown how the Tisserand Criterion needs to be adapted using a correction term for the low-thrust situation. It is explained why this necessary correction term excludes an a priori evaluation of sequences and therefore their planning and an alternate approach is proposed. Preliminary results of this method, by application of a Differential Evolution optimization algorithm, are presented and discussed, showing that the method is valid but can be improved. Two constraints on the search space are briefly presented for that aim.


Gravity-assist Sequencing Deep space Trajectory optimization Low-thrust 


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Copyright information

© CEAS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of System Analysis Space SegmentGerman Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Space SystemsBremenGermany

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