Singular arcs for blunt endoatmospheric vehicles

I. Michael Ross, Robert G. Melton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper formulates the Mayer optimal control problem for an endoatmospheric, non-lifting, finite-thrust vehicle, and considers singular extremals. Using Lie brackets, the singular control is derived and expressed in a state feedback form. The totality of extremals indicates that a forced Keplerian motion obtained by thrust-drag cancellation is not optimal for any Mayer performance criterion. In addition, this paper proves two theorems establishing limits on the optimality of bang-bang control for such a system, and develops a heuristic for the sufficiency of bang-bang optimal control. A sample problem of optimal orbital maintenance indicates the importance of thrust-vectoring for greater propellant efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-51
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Astronautical Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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