Combined low-thrust propulsion and invariant manifold trajectories to capture NEOs in the Sun–Earth circular restricted three-body problem

G. Mingotti, J. P. Sánchez, C. R. McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, a method to capture near-Earth objects (NEOs) incorporating low-thrust propulsion into the invariant manifolds technique is investigated. Assuming that a tugboat-spacecraft is in a rendez-vous condition with the candidate asteroid, the aim is to take the joint spacecraft-asteroid system to a selected periodic orbit of the Sun–Earth restricted three-body system: the orbit can be either a libration point periodic orbit (LPO) or a distant prograde periodic orbit (DPO) around the Earth. In detail, low-thrust propulsion is used to bring the joint spacecraft-asteroid system from the initial condition to a point belonging to the stable manifold associated to the final periodic orbit: from here onward, thanks to the intrinsic dynamics of the physical model adopted, the flight is purely ballistic. Dedicated guided and capture sets are introduced to exploit the combined use of low-thrust propulsion with stable manifolds trajectories, aiming at defining feasible first guess solutions. Then, an optimal control problem is formulated to refine and improve them. This approach enables a new class of missions, whose solutions are not obtainable neither through the patched-conics method nor through the classic invariant manifolds technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-336
Number of pages28
JournalCelestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy
Issue number3
Early online date5 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • asteroid retrieval candidates
  • distant prograde periodic orbit (DPO)
  • easily retrievable objects (EROs)
  • invariant manifolds
  • libration point periodic orbit (LPO)
  • low-thrust propulsion
  • near earth object capture
  • optimal control problem
  • special dedicated sets

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