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Long term evolution of distant retrograde orbits in the Earth-Moon system


This work studies the evolution of several Distant Retrograde Orbits (DROs) of varying size in the Earth-Moon system over durations up to tens of millennia. This analysis is relevant for missions requiring a completely hands off, long duration quarantine orbit, such as a Mars Sample Return mission or the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Four DROs are selected from four stable size regions and are propagated for up to 30,000 years with an integrator that uses extended precision arithmetic techniques and a high fidelity dynamical model. The evolution of the orbit’s size, shape, orientation, period, out-of-plane amplitude, and Jacobi constant are tracked. It has been found that small DROs, with minor axis amplitudes of approximately 45,000 km or less decay in size and period largely due to the Moon’s solid tides. Larger DROs (62,000 km and up) are more influenced by the gravity of bodies external to the Earth-Moon system, and remain bound to the Moon for significantly less time.

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We thank Joshua Hopkins, William Pratt, and their team at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company for their valuable insights and probing questions. This work has been partially funded by the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. Research for this paper was conducted with Government support under contact FA9550-11-C-0028 and awarded by the Department of Defense, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship, 32 CFR 168a.

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Correspondence to Collin Bezrouk.

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Bezrouk, C., Parker, J.S. Long term evolution of distant retrograde orbits in the Earth-Moon system. Astrophys Space Sci 362, 176 (2017).

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  • Distant retrograde orbit
  • Dtability
  • Variable precision arithmetic