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Fundamentals of Astrodynamics Bate Mueller and White 0486600610

Fundamentals of Astrodynamics Bate Mueller and White 0486600610

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Manned spacefight, still in its infancy, has largely been confined to
regions of space very near the surface of the earth. The reason for this is
neither timidity nor lack of large booster rockets. Rather, the
environment of near-earth space conspires to limit the altitude of an
artificial satellite, particularly if it is manned, to a very narrow region
just above the earth's sensible atmosphere.
Altitudes below 100 nm are not possible because of atmospheric
drag and th� Van Allen radiation belts limit manned flights to altitudes
below about 300 nm.
3.1.1 Effect of Orbital Altitude on Satellite Lifeties. The exact
relationship between orbital altitude and satellite lifetime depends on
several factors. For circular orbits of a manned satellite about the size

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of the Gemini or Apolo spacecraft, Figure 3.1-1 shows the limits
imposed by drag, radiation and meteorite damage considerations.
For elliptical orbits the limits are slightly different, but you should
keep in mind that the perigee altitude cannot be much less than 100 nm
nor the apogee altitude much greater than 300 nm for the reasons just
stated.

.

The eccentricity of an elliptical orbit whose perigee altitude is 100
nm and whose apogee altitude is 300 nm is less than .03! Because it is
difficult to imagine just how close such an orbit is to the surface of the
earth, we have drawn one to scale in Figure·

3.1·2. The military
potential of a low altitude satellite for reconnaissance is obvious from
this sketch.

3.1.2 Direct Ascent to Orbit. It is possible to inect a satellite
directly into a low altitude orbit by having its booster rockets burn

300 n.m.
apogee

Scale 1/10 in = 200 n.m.

Figure 3.1-2 Typical low altitude earth orbit

100 n.m.
perigee

Sc. 3.1

LOW ALTITUDE EARTH ORBITS

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Figure 3.1-3 Direct ascent into a low altitude orbit

continuously from lift-off to a burnout point somewhere on the desired
orbit. The injection or burnout point is usually planned to occur at
perigee with a fight-path angle at burnout of 00. Any deviation from
the correct burnout speed or flight-path angle could be catastrophic for,
as you can see from Figure 3.1-2, there is very little clearance between
the orbit and the surface of the earth.
It normally takes at least a two-stage booster to inject a two-or
three-man vehicle into low earth orbit. The vehicle is not allowed to
coast. between first stage booster separation and second stage ignition.
The powered flight trajectory looks something like what is shown in
Figure 3.1-3. The" vehicle rises vertically from the launch pad,
immediately beginning a roll to the correct azimuth. The pitch
program-a slow tilting of the vehicle to the desired fight-path
angle-normally begins about 15 seconds afer lift-off and continues
until the vehicle is traveling horizontally at the desired burnout
altitude. The fnal burnout point is usually about 300 nm downrange of
the launch point.

The first stage booster falls to the earth several hundred miles
downrange but the final stage booster, since it has essentially the same
speed and direction at burnout as the satellite itself, may orbit the earth
for several revolutions before atmospheric drag causes its orbit to decay
and it re-enters. The lower ballistic coefficient (weight to area ratio) of

156

BASIC ORBITAL MANEUVERS

Ch.3

the empty booster causes it to be affected more by drag than the
vehicle itself would be.

3.1.3 Perturbations of Low Altitude Orbits Due to te Oblate Shape
of the Ea. The earth is not spherical as we assumed it to be and,
therefore, its center-of-gravity is not coicident with its center-of-mass.
If you are very far from the center of the earth the difference is not
significant, but for low altitude earth orbits the effects are not
negligible.

The two principal effects are regression of the line-of-nodes and
rotation of the line-of-apsides (major axis). Nodal regression is a
rotation of the plane of the orbit about the earth's axis ofrotation at a
rate which depends on both orbital inclination and altitude. As a result,
successive ground traces of direct orbits are displaced westward farther
than would be the case due to earth rotation alone.

Figre 3.1-4 Perturbative torque caused by earth's equatorial bulge

The graVitational effect of an oblate earth can more easily be
visualized by picturing a spherical earth surrounded by a belt of excess
matter representing the equatorial bulge. When a satellite is in the
positions shown in Figure 3.1-4 the net effect of the bulges is to
produce a slight torque on the satellite about the center of the earth.
This torque will cause the plane of the orbit to precess just as a
gyroscope would under a similar torque. The result is that the nodes
move westward for direct orbits and eastward for retrograde orbits.
The nodal regression rate is shown in Figure 3.1-5. Note that for low
altitude orbits of low inclination the rate approaches 90per day . You

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Figre 3.1-6 ApsidaJ rotation rate4

Ch.3

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LOW ALTITUDE EARTH ORBITS

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should be able to look at Figure 3.1-4 and see why the nodal regression
is greatest for orbits whose inclination is near 00 or 1800 and goes to
zero for polar orbits.
The rotation of the line of apsides is only applicable to eccentric
orbits. With this perturbation, which also is due to oblateness, the
major axis of an elliptical trajectory will rotate in the direction of
motion of the satellite if the orbital inclination is less than 63.40 or
greater than 116.60, and oppo.site to the direction of motion for
inclinations between 63.40 and 116.60. The rate at which the major
axis rotates is a function of both orbit altitude and inclination angle.
Figure 3.1-6 shows the apsidal rotation rate versus inclination angle for
a perigee altitude of 100 nlland various apogee altitudes.

EXAMPLE PROBLEM. A satellite is orbiting the earth in a 500 nm
circular orbit. The ascending node moves to the west, completing one
revolution every 90 days.

a. What is the inclination of the orbit?

b. It is desired that the ascending node make only one revolution
every 135 days. Calculate the new orbital inclination required if the
satellite remains at the same altitude.

1) The given information is:

h = 500 n mi

., = 360° per 90 days

:.Nodal regression per day = = 40/day

From Figure 3.1-5 i = 50°

2) It is desired to have � = 3600 per 135 days. Therefore

Nodal regression per day = f� =

2.670/day

From Figure 3.1-5 i::: 64°

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BASIC ORBITAL MANEUVERS

Ch.3

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