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 which is initially in a higher orbit. The interceptor vehicle can use both conventional rocket propulsion and, if optimal or necessary, aerodynamic forces to change us 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)467-489
Number of pages23
JournalAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
Volume102 I
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science

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