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In orbital mechanics, a transfer orbit is an intermediate elliptical orbit that is used to move a spacecraft in an orbital maneuver from one circular, or largely circular, orbit to another.
There are several types of transfer orbits, which vary in their energy efficiency and speed of transfer. These include:
A trans-lunar injection (TLI) is a propulsive maneuver used to set a spacecraft on a trajectory that will cause it to arrive at the Moon.
In astronautics, the Hohmann transfer orbit is an orbital maneuver used to transfer a spacecraft between two orbits of different altitudes around a central body. Examples would be used for travel between low Earth orbit and the Moon, or another solar planet or asteroid. In the idealized case, the initial and target orbits are both circular and coplanar. The maneuver is accomplished by placing the craft into an elliptical transfer orbit that is tangential to both the initial and target orbits. The maneuver uses two impulsive engine burns: the first establishes the transfer orbit, and the second adjusts the orbit to match the target.
A geosynchronous transfer orbit or geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) is a type of geocentric orbit. Satellites that are destined for geosynchronous (GSO) or geostationary orbit (GEO) are (almost) always put into a GTO as an intermediate step for reaching their final orbit.
Orbital mechanics or astrodynamics is the application of ballistics and celestial mechanics to the practical problems concerning the motion of rockets and other spacecraft. The motion of these objects is usually calculated from Newton's laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. Orbital mechanics is a core discipline within space-mission design and control.
The Interplanetary Transport Network (ITN) is a collection of gravitationally determined pathways through the Solar System that require very little energy for an object to follow. The ITN makes particular use of Lagrange points as locations where trajectories through space can be redirected using little or no energy. These points have the peculiar property of allowing objects to orbit around them, despite lacking an object to orbit. While it would use little energy, transport along the network would take a long time.
Delta-v, symbolized as ∆v and pronounced delta-vee, as used in spacecraft flight dynamics, is a measure of the impulse per unit of spacecraft mass that is needed to perform a maneuver such as launching from or landing on a planet or moon, or an in-space orbital maneuver. It is a scalar that has the units of speed. As used in this context, it is not the same as the physical change in velocity of the vehicle.
Walter Hohmann was a German engineer who made an important contribution to the understanding of orbital dynamics. In a book published in 1925, Hohmann demonstrated a fuel-efficient path to move a spacecraft between two different orbits, now called a Hohmann transfer orbit. He received his Ph.D. from the RWTH Aachen University in 1920.
A geocentric orbit or Earth orbit involves any object orbiting Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites. In 1997, NASA estimated there were approximately 2,465 artificial satellite payloads orbiting Earth and 6,216 pieces of space debris as tracked by the Goddard Space Flight Center. More than 16,291 objects previously launched have undergone orbital decay and entered Earth's atmosphere.
In astrodynamics and aerospace, a delta-v budget is an estimate of the total change in velocity (delta-v) required for a space mission. It is calculated as the sum of the delta-v required to perform each propulsive maneuver needed during the mission. As input to the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, it determines how much propellant is required for a vehicle of given empty mass and propulsion system.
In spaceflight, an orbital maneuver is the use of propulsion systems to change the orbit of a spacecraft. For spacecraft far from Earth an orbital maneuver is called a deep-space maneuver (DSM).
Spacecraft flight dynamics is the application of mechanical dynamics to model how the external forces acting on a space vehicle or spacecraft determine its flight path. These forces are primarily of three types: propulsive force provided by the vehicle's engines; gravitational force exerted by the Earth and other celestial bodies; and aerodynamic lift and drag.
The Hiten spacecraft, given the English name Celestial Maiden and known before launch as MUSES-A, part of the MUSES Program, was built by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of Japan and launched on January 24, 1990. It was Japan's first lunar probe, the first robotic lunar probe since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976, and the first lunar probe launched by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. The spacecraft was named after flying heavenly beings in Buddhism.
A heliocentric orbit is an orbit around the barycenter of the Solar System, which is usually located within or very near the surface of the Sun. All planets, comets, and asteroids in the Solar System, and the Sun itself are in such orbits, as are many artificial probes and pieces of debris. The moons of planets in the Solar System, by contrast, are not in heliocentric orbits, as they orbit their respective planet.
In astronautics and aerospace engineering, the bi-elliptic transfer is an orbital maneuver that moves a spacecraft from one orbit to another and may, in certain situations, require less delta-v than a Hohmann transfer maneuver.
In orbital mechanics, a free-return trajectory is a trajectory of a spacecraft traveling away from a primary body where gravity due to a secondary body causes the spacecraft to return to the primary body without propulsion.
In astronomy, lunar orbit is the orbit of an object around the Moon.
A low-energy transfer, or low-energy trajectory, is a route in space that allows spacecraft to change orbits using significantly less fuel than traditional transfers. These routes work in the Earth–Moon system and also in other systems, such as between the moons of Jupiter. The drawback of such trajectories is that they take longer to complete than higher-energy (more-fuel) transfers, such as Hohmann transfer orbits.
Ballistic capture is a low energy method for a spacecraft to achieve an orbit around a distant planet or moon with no fuel required to go into orbit. In the ideal case, the transfer is ballistic after launch. In the traditional alternative to ballistic capture, spacecraft would use a Hohmann transfer orbit, which requires the spacecraft to burn fuel in order to slow down at the target. A requirement for the spacecraft to carry fuel adds to its cost and complexity.
CAPSTONE is a lunar orbiter that will test and verify the calculated orbital stability planned for the Lunar Gateway space station. The spacecraft is a 12-unit CubeSat that will also test a navigation system that will measure its position relative to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) without relying on ground stations. It was launched on 28 June 2022, and will spend over six months flying around the Moon.