Moon-tracking orbits using motorized tethers for continuous Earth-Moon payload exchanges

Christopher Murray, Matthew P. Cartmell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


For human colonization of the moon to become reality, an efficient and regular means of exchanging resources between the Earth and the moon must be established. One possibility is to pass and receive payloads at regular intervals between a symmetrically laden motorized momentum-exchange tether orbiting about Earth and a second orbiting about the moon. There are significant challenges associated with this method, among the greatest of which is the development of a system that incorporates the complex motion of the moon into its operational architecture in addition to conducting these exchanges on a per-lunar-orbit basis. One way of achieving this is to use a motorized tether orbiting Earth and tracking the nodes of the moon’s orbit to allow payload exchanges to be undertaken periodically with the arrival of the moon at either of these nodes. Tracking these nodes is achieved by arranging the tether to orbit Earth with a critical inclination, thus rendering its argument of perigee stationary in addition to using the precession effects resulting from an oblate Earth. Using this in conjunction with pre-emptive adjustments to its angle of right ascension, the tether will periodically realign itself with these nodes simultaneously with the arrival of the moon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-576
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Guidance Control and Dynamics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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