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Application of the Conjugate Gradient Method to a Problem on Minimum Time Orbit Transfer

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1 Author(s)

This correspondence considers the problem of optimally controlling the thrust steering angle of an ion-propelled spaceship so as to effect a minimum time coplanar orbit transfer from the mean orbital distance of Earth to mean Martian and Venusian orbital distances. This problem has been modelled as a free terminal time-optimal control problem with unbounded control variable and with state variable equality constraints at the final time. The problem has been solved by the penalty function approach, using the conjugate gradient algorithm. In general, the optimal solution shows a significant departure from earlier work. In particular, the optimal control in the case of Earth-Mars orbit transfer, during the initial phase of the spaceship's flight, is found to be negative, resulting in the motion of the spaceship within the Earth's orbit for a significant fraction of the total optimized orbit transfer time. Such a feature exhibited by the optimal solution has not been reported at all by earlier investigators of this problem.

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Aerospace and Electronic Systems, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:AES-11 ,  Issue: 3 )