Fuel optimization for low-thrust Earth–Moon transfer via indirect optimal control

  • Daniel Pérez-Palau
  • Richard Epenoy
Original Article


The problem of designing low-energy transfers between the Earth and the Moon has attracted recently a major interest from the scientific community. In this paper, an indirect optimal control approach is used to determine minimum-fuel low-thrust transfers between a low Earth orbit and a Lunar orbit in the Sun–Earth–Moon Bicircular Restricted Four-Body Problem. First, the optimal control problem is formulated and its necessary optimality conditions are derived from Pontryagin’s Maximum Principle. Then, two different solution methods are proposed to overcome the numerical difficulties arising from the huge sensitivity of the problem’s state and costate equations. The first one consists in the use of continuation techniques. The second one is based on a massive exploration of the set of unknown variables appearing in the optimality conditions. The dimension of the search space is reduced by considering adapted variables leading to a reduction of the computational time. The trajectories found are classified in several families according to their shape, transfer duration and fuel expenditure. Finally, an analysis based on the dynamical structure provided by the invariant manifolds of the two underlying Circular Restricted Three-Body Problems, Earth–Moon and Sun–Earth is presented leading to a physical interpretation of the different families of trajectories.


Low-thrust propulsion Minimum-fuel trajectories Earth–Moon transfers Indirect optimal control Bicircular Restricted Four-Body Problem 

Mathematics Subject Classification

70F10 65K10 49M05 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNESToulouse Cedex 9France

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