Optimal Aeroassisted Orbital Interception

Kazuhiro Horie, Bruce A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimal trajectories are found for the interception of a target in circular, low Earth orbit, by a vehicle that is initially in a higher orbit. The interceptor vehicle can use both conventional rocket propulsion and, if optimal or necessary, aerodynamic forces to change its orbit. The problem is solved using a direct method, collocation with nonlinear programming, in which the continuous optimal control problem is converted into a discrete problem. Both minimum-time and minimum-fuel trajectories are found. The sensitivity of the optimal trajectories to atmospheric heating-rate constraints is determined. An interesting result is that some minimum-time trajectories enter the atmosphere and use aerodynamic forces for orbit change even when there is sufficient propellant available to accomplish the interception ballistically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-631
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics

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