Elliptical multi-sun-synchronous orbits for Mars exploration
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The multi-sun-synchronous orbits allow cycles of observation of the same area in which solar illumination repetitively changes according to the value of the orbit elements and returns to the initial condition after a temporal interval multiple of the repetition of observation. This paper generalizes the concept of multi-sun-synchronous orbits, whose classical sun-synchronous orbits represent particular solutions, taking into consideration the elliptical case. The feasibility of using this typology of orbits, referred to as elliptical periodic multi-sun-synchronous orbits, has been investigated for the exploration of Mars and particular solutions have been selected. Such solutions considerably reduce the manoeuvre of velocity variation at the end of the interplanetary transfer with respect to the case of a target circular orbit around Mars. They are based on the use of quasi-critical inclinations in order to minimize the apsidal line motion and thus reduce orbit maintenance costs. Moreover, in the case of high eccentricities, the argument of pericentre may be set in order to obtain, around the apocentre, a condition of quasi-synchronism with the planet (the footprint of the probe on the surface presents a small shift with respect to a fixed point on the Martian surface). The low altitude of pericentre allows observation of the planet at a higher spatial resolution, while the orbit arc around the apocentre may be used to observe Mars with a wide spatial coverage in quasi-stationary conditions. This latter characteristic is useful for analysing atmospheric and meteorological phenomena and it allows for most of the orbital period a link between a rover on the surface of Mars and a probe orbiting around the planet.
KeywordsMulti-sun-synchronism Elliptical orbits Mars exploration Periodicity conditions Quasi-synchronous orbits
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