Coupled effects of initial orbit plane on orbit lifetime in the three body problem

Christopher J. Scott, David B. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, the orbital dynamics of a spacecraft orbiting a smaller gravitational mass with a larger gravitational body perturbing its orbit is addressed. While the simple two-body dynamics works well for relatively isolated systems, objects orbiting a body with such a large gravitational perturbation require the system to be modeled as a restricted three-body problem. An example of this type of system is Jupiter and one of its moons. This study examines the stability of orbits at various inclinations and right ascensions with regard to orbital lifetimes, and answers the question: how long does it take before the gravitational forces of the larger body causes the spacecraft to crash into the smaller body. This information is critical when planning a mission to a moon, especially when one of the goals is to orbit the moon at as low of an altitude as possible. An example analysis for a spacecraft orbit around Ganymede is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3005-3015
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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