Questions tagged [orbital-mechanics]

Orbital mechanics or astrodynamics is the application of ballistics and celestial mechanics to the practical problems concerning the motion of rockets and other spacecraft. For the movements of celestial bodies, see [celestial-mechanics].

204 questions with no upvoted or accepted answers
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327 views

Where would the Pascal B manhole cover be now?

As part of the Operation Plumbbob series of nuclear tests, on August 27th, 1957, at 22:35 UT (15.35 Pacific Daylight Time), at the Nevada Test Range at 32°N 116°W, a 300 ton-yield atomic device was ...
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What is the rationale behind NORAD's use of TEME?

The most popular catalog of Earth-orbiting objects is NORAD’s. The catalog provides the so-called « two-line elements » (TLE) which essentially are computed orbital parameters of a catalogued object, ...
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Interpolating precise ephemerides of GPS satellites

My objective is to obtain at least a sub-meter position accuracy by interpolation of the GPS ephemerides. There is conflicting research outside, where some authors state that a simple Lagrange or ...
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How long does the SYLDA fairing stay in orbit after deploying?

For dual-manifest missions, Ariane 5 often uses the Système de Lancement Double or SYLDA system to encapsulate the lower of two stacked satellites. It can be seen in the following image encapsulating ...
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Is there a general relativistic relativistic rocket equation?

I am not to familiar with rocket equations but I know that if you combine special relativity with classical mechanics you get "c" as a speed limit. Basically the closer you get to "c" the more you ...
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For the mathematical relationship between J2 (km^5/s^2) and dimensionless J2 - which one is derived from the other?

The term $J_2$ seen in discussions of nodal precession of orbits (e.g. sun-synchronous) appears to come in two flavors. For example, in the Wikipedia article Geopotential model it has a value of $1....
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448 views

Understanding formula for geocentric position of Moon

I am trying to understand a basic formula in a Celestial Mechanics reference. The formula is for the position of the Moon in a geocentric frame. The reference claims in line (981) that this should be ...
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How can I plot satellite's trajectory from three different TLEs to detect any deviation on path with time?

I have obtained TLE information of a satellite from space-track.org for three different times. I am trying to study any deviation of the satellite trajectory from its usual path. Here I am comparing ...
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279 views

Did Rosetta improve on models of non-gravitational effects on comet 67P's orbit?

Question: Since the presence of the Rosetta spacecraft near comet 67P allowed for a detailed mass measurement, extremely precise position and velocity determinations, and physcal measurement and ...
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When was Lucy's mission first scripted in Excel and why is that what Lockheed Martin chose to do it with?

CNBC's NASA spacecraft launches toward Jupiter asteroids on an intricate path charted by Excel Years before Lucy took off, Lockheed Martin mission architect Brian Sutter used Excel to chart the ...
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Who invented the sun-synchronous orbit?

I was explaining sun-synchronous orbits to a co-worker and he asked me who invented it and when. I could not find an answer on wikipedia or a quick google search, so I thought about asking here.
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Where can I find data on satellite orbits?

I'm an enthusiast who'd like access to satellite orbital data to simulate / plot trajectories of manmade satellites (of any kind) on my home computer. Where's the best place for me to find this kind ...
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235 views

Outlier detection algorithm for orbit determination, how do different ones compare?

I have been reading about outlier detection algorithm for improving determinations based on realistic data. Outlier exclusion is an important tool in any analysis of realistic noisy data. There are ...
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439 views

Were the Apollo lunar ALSEP transmitter signals ever analyzed or used after the experiments were shut down?

This answer to the question Why were the “perfectly functioning” seismometers placed by Apollo 12, 14, 15 and 16 astronauts all shut off in 1977? links to a NASA News Release No: 77-47 dated September ...
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157 views

Small-bodies landing strategies

Looking at past landing missions on small bodies such as Eros, Itokawa and 67P I found different landing strategies Eros: NEAR Shoemaker probe performed 4 impulsive pre-planned open-loop maneuvers to ...
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Locally optimal control for low thrust transfers with J2 and other Earth perturbations

Background As detailed in this answer low thrust optimization is subject of ongoing research. There are a few closed-loop control laws which allow to achieve a locally optimal (but close to globally ...
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429 views

Solutions to a "Lambert's problem in velocity"

Lambert's problem (also here and here): $$\mathbf{r_1}, \mathbf{r_2}, t \rightarrow \mathbf{v_1}, \mathbf{v_2}$$ was solved by Johann Heinrich Lambert via Lambert's Theorem (see references below). ...
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How to calculate if a co-location intercept is possible in a ballistic counter-battery scenario

Let us presume that we have a scenario with ballistic objects. As an example, one object $m_1$ is launched at time $t_0$ from Earth Location $a$ towards Earth Location $b$, both of which are in the ...
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Is there a known solution for optimal impulsive transfer between two arbitrary elliptical orbits?

If not, what optimization methods or tools do people use? (Code libraries?)
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How to find a vector's elevation angle with respect to a point on Earth?

tl;dr: Spacecraft's antenna should point to a ground station but there is a pointing error. I want to express the error as a vector rather than a simple angle that a dot product provides, so that I ...
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130 views

Just how much "dumb luck" was reaching the space age during the "Grand Tour" opportunity? Would we have been SOL 1050 or 2100 years before/after?

@OscarLanzi's answer to Why is the gas giant grand tour interval 175 years when the synodic period of Uranus and Neptune is 171 years? is an excellent answer describing a subtle situation; each pair ...
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How many burns does it take to reboost the ISS?

When the International Space Station is given a reboost, how many burns are performed? Is it a Hohmann transfer orbit, with one perigee burn and one apogee burn? Or is it one burn at apogee just to ...
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Setting up orbit propagation in Orekit

Please forgive my ignorance, I'm new to orbital dynamics. I am using Orekit [https://www.orekit.org/] for orbital propagation in order to determine rise and set times for a MEO satellite, and am ...
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79 views

Largest single burn spacecraft delta-v in deep space?

This 700 m/s maneuver that was avoided got me thinking and then CNN's NASA mission will zoom by asteroid before returning sample to Earth said: "Leaving Bennu's vicinity in May puts us in the '...
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How the B-Plane parameters are generally determined

Reading from this document, I am trying to simulate the New Horizons probe trajectory in GMAT and I am puzzled with how the authors of the original paper (by legendary mission designer Robert W. ...
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What is the closest polar lunar orbit that can be sustained? What are the limiting factors on closest approach?

I'm wondering how close a lunar orbit can get at periapsis to the south pole. I want an orbit that is sustainable for at least ~20 orbits. I'm working on a small sat concept for studying the lunar ...
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What is the sign of Earth's J2?

From Wikipedia's Geopotential model; The deviations of Earth's gravitational field from that of a homogeneous sphere and the question For the mathematical relationship between J2 (km^5/s^2) and ...
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How to get lunar L, B, C parameters from the Moon's 3x3 rotation matrix from the Python package Skyfield?

Answers to What are the “Moon L, B, C” angles shown in this solar eclipse simulation? explain that L and B (or "l" and "b") are the "selenographic coordinates of the Moon's apparent center" (latitude ...
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Solar system galactic velocity vector relative to ecliptic plane

The Solar system moves through the Milky Way galaxy with velocity of 230 km/s. The ecliptic plane is located ~60 degrees with relation to the galaxy plane, according to this source. The page also ...
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What is known about the trajectory of J002E3 (Saturn V IV-B stage of Apollo 12)?

This answer taught me about J002E3, an object detected in Earth orbit in 2002 that is assumed to be the Saturn V IV-B stage from Apollo 12. It's trajectory through space is fascinating: (source) ...
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Good example of early and simple orbital mechanics?

I am doing a talk on Katherine Johnson at my school extremely soon and I was wondering if you could give a relatively quick example of a simplified calculation in any kind of orbital mechanics ...
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Interplanetary Taxi Orbit

I would like to know the feasibility of an interplanetary "bus" or "taxi" which moves between, say, Earth-Mars or Earth-Venus without entering the orbit of either. The idea is that the taxi is large--...
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Just how record-setting was the launch-to-docking time of the April-4-2019 Progress resupply mission?

Digital Trend's article 3-plus-hour supply trip from Earth to International Space Station breaks record mentions that this was even faster than the typical "fast-track" Russian launch-to-docking time ...
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Proper handling of terminal guidance of finite burn closed-loop execution for rendezvous conditions?

I'm writing some software which uses Optimal Control Theory / Calculus of Variations / Pontrayagin's Minimum Principle / Primer Vector Theory to do closed-loop execution of finite burns (in KSP). ...
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271 views

Why is DSCOVR in a Lissajous orbit? Wouldn't a halo orbit completely avoid the Sun exclusion zone?

Halo orbits are a sub-class of Lissajous orbits. See this answer for (much) more on that. DSCOVR's orbit will put it in it's Sun Exclusion Zone in about 2020 where the communications line of sight ...
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How to specify constraints for launch windows

I'm trying to learn trajectory design and optimization, and I'm struggling to understand how one determines the launch window using trajectory design programs. I know that my satellite's initial ...
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156 views

Variation in Earth's aphelion and perihelion

I see from Astropixels.com that Earth's aphelion and perihelion each vary by a little over 29,000 km, while the earth-moon barycenter wobble is about 4,000 km. Is Astropixels.com correct? Are Jupiter ...
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(How well) Did Juno provide any insight into the Flyby Anomaly?

I ran across an old BBC article titled Juno: The spacecraft putting sling theory to the test — Why a probe passing our planet on its way to Jupiter might end a decades-old mystery, and reveal ...
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Differential Equations for Rocket Launch in Polar Coordinates

I'm trying to understand the equations of motion for a rocket launched from earth, through the atmosphere, and into LEO. I found a set of ordinary differential equations which describe the motion of ...
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Resonances and the seven sisters recently discovered

In reference to the discovery of seven planets around Trappist-1, I'm just wondering if any of these planets are in an orbital resonance and if that is the case, what the implications for habitability ...
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extreme longevity of geostationary orbits

I was speculating that geostationary satellites could be around possibly for billions of years (i.e. much beyond the point where plate tectonics would have erased all traces of human civilization on ...
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What are the specifications for electrical connectors that can be used for repeated mating in space?

We’re working on an interface between satellites that when docked has to transmit power and data. The interface needs to have a port for transmitting power and data. Majority of the connectors ...
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what range of orbital inclinations will be needed to reach Mars from the Boca Chica launch site?

When SpaceX fly missions out of Boca Chica in South Texas to Mars what orbital inclination will the launch need to be to put the spacecraft on to best transfer orbit to Mars? And will this vary with ...
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How to generate TLEs based on a set of observation points (location, azimuth, elevation... no range)

I'm interested in generating a "corrected TLE1" based on observation data. I would have observed azimuth and elevation, site location, and time. All of those data fields are observed with ...
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How is satellite's footprint/coverage calculated?

I was using Orbitron - Satellite Tracking software the other day and I saw that clicking on any of the satellites, you will see their footprint (they are usually not-ideal circles, usually ellipses), ...
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Minimum delta V required to return a piece of metallic asteroid 16 Psyche to Earth?

Suppose somebody sent a rover to Psyche 16 and found massive concentrated deposits of platinum-group metals near the surface, and turned it into a 10 ton sphere of platinum/iridium/osmium/gold alloy ...
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How many times will the Photon fire its Curie in order to "reach the right spot" to deploy CAPSTONE towards the Moon?

note: it's been a year and a half and Capstone is scheduled to be launched soon, so perhaps there is more information available now? The Verge's How small launcher Rocket Lab plans to pull off its ...
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Second derivative of mean motion as indicator of deorbit

I noticed that the second derivative of mean motion (SDMM) is non-zero for only a small percentage of the NORAD catalog. All those objects I checked have reentered since the TLEs I was using were ...
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147 views

Did Juno just do a plane change? If so, by how much?

There are several reports in the news that the Juno spacecraft executed a very long propulsive maneuver so that it wouldn't pass through Jupiter's shadow. Apparently it would be in dark so long that ...
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Delta-v cost of longitudinal plane change correction?

In a recent question, the slow drift of a landing site on a rotating body relative to an orbiter came up. This would sometimes require a plane change correction when one desires to recover the ...

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