Optimization of low-thrust interplanetary trajectories using collocation and nonlinear programming

Sean Tang, Bruce A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The method of collocation with nonlinear programming is applied to the determination of minimum-time, low-thrust interplanetary transfer trajectories. Since the vehicle motor operates continuously, the minimum-time trajectories are also propellant minimizing. The numerical solution method requires that the transfer be divided into three phases: escape from the departure planet, heliocentric flight, and arrival at the destination planet. Two-body gravitational models are used in each phase and the transformation from planetocentric coordinates to heliocentric coordinates and vice-versa is incorporated as a set of nonlinear constraints on the problem variables. No a priori assumptions on the optimal control time history are required. An Earth-to-Mars transfer with a very low thrust acceleration of 0.0001 g is used as an example.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-604
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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