Loosely-displaced geostationary orbits with hybrid sail propulsion

Yuan Liu, Jeannette Heiligers, Matteo Ceriotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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To overcome the congestion of geostationary orbit slots, previous work proposed to use vertically-displaced, non-Keplerian geostationary orbits by means of continuous low-thrust propulsion in the form of hybrid solar sail and solar electric propulsion (hybrid sail). This work extends and generalizes that concept by loosening the position constraint and introducing a station-keeping box. Sub-optimal orbits are first found with an inverse method that still satisfy the geostationary position constraint (i.e., no station-keeping box), which will be referred to as ideal displaced geostationary orbits. For these sub-optimal orbits, it is found that the hybrid sail saves propellant mass compared to the pure solar electric propulsion case: for solar sail lightness numbers of up to a value of 0.2 and the most favorable time during the year (i.e., at summer solstice), the hybrid sail saves up to 71.6% propellant mass during a single day compared to the use of pure solar electric propulsion. Subsequently, the sub-optimal orbits are used as a first-guess for a direct optimization algorithm based on Gauss pseudospectral transcription, which loosens the position constraint. This enables a more flexible trajectory around the ideal displaced geostationary orbit and lets the solar sail contribute more efficiently to the required acceleration. It therefore leads to a further propellant savings of up to 73.8%. Finally, the mass budget shows that by using by using far-term solar sail technology, the hybrid propulsion system enables an evident reduction in the required initial mass of the spacecraft for a given payload mass with a relatively long mission duration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-117
Number of pages13
JournalAerospace Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Displaced geostationary orbits
  • Hybrid propulsion
  • Orbit optimization
  • Solar sail


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