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International Journal of Aerospace Engineering
Volume 2011, Article ID 476197, 13 pages
Research Article

Generating Solar Sail Trajectories in the Earth-Moon System Using Augmented Finite-Difference Methods

School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Purdue University, 701 W. Stadium Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045, USA

Received 8 November 2010; Accepted 1 February 2011

Academic Editor: Srinivas R. Vadali

Copyright © 2011 Geoffrey G. Wawrzyniak and Kathleen C. Howell. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Using a solar sail, a spacecraft orbit can be offset from a central body such that the orbital plane is displaced from the gravitational center. Such a trajectory might be desirable for a single-spacecraft relay to support communications with an outpost at the lunar south pole. Although trajectory design within the context of the Earth-Moon restricted problem is advantageous for this problem, it is difficult to envision the design space for offset orbits. Numerical techniques to solve boundary value problems can be employed to understand this challenging dynamical regime. Numerical finite-difference schemes are simple to understand and implement. Two augmented finite-difference methods (FDMs) are developed and compared to a Hermite-Simpson collocation scheme. With 101 evenly spaced nodes, solutions from the FDM are locally accurate to within 1740 km. Other methods, such as collocation, offer more accurate solutions, but these gains are mitigated when solutions resulting from simple models are migrated to higher-fidelity models. The primary purpose of using a simple, lower-fidelity, augmented finite-difference method is to quickly and easily generate accurate trajectories.