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Targeting with Modified Equinoctial Orbital Elements

The modified equinoctial orbital elements are a set of orbital elements that are useful for trajectory
analysis and optimization. They are valid for circular, elliptic, and hyperbolic orbits. These direct
modified equinoctial equations exhibit no singularity for zero eccentricity and orbital inclinations equal
to 0 and 90 degrees. However, please note that two of the components are singular for an orbital
inclination of 180 degrees.

The modified equinoctial elements are defined in terms of the classical orbital elements as follows:

p = a (1 − e 2 )

f = e cos (ω + Ω )

g = e sin (ω + Ω )

h = tan ( i 2 ) cos Ω

k = tan ( i 2 ) sin Ω

L =θ +ω + Ω
where
p= semiparameter
a= semimajor axis
e= orbital eccentricity
i= orbital inclination
ω = argument of perigee
Ω = right ascension of the ascending node
θ = true anomaly
L = true longitude

The classical orbital elements can be recovered from the modified equinoctial orbital elements with

semimajor axis
p
a=
1 − f 2 − g2

orbital eccentricity
e= f 2 + g2

orbital inclination
i = 2 tan −1 ( h2 + k 2 )

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argument of periapsis

ω = tan −1 ( g , f ) − tan −1 ( k , h )

gh− f k
sin ω =
e tan ( i 2 )

f h+ gk
cos ω =
e tan ( i 2 )

right ascension of the ascending node

Ω = tan −1 ( k , h )

k
sin Ω =
tan ( i 2 )

h
cos Ω =
tan ( i 2 )

true anomaly
θ = L − (ω + Ω ) = L − tan −1 ( g , f )

1
sin θ = ( f sin L − g cos L )
e
1
cosθ = ( f cos L + g sin L )
e

In these expressions, an inverse tangent expression of the form θ = tan −1 ( a , b ) denotes a four quadrant
evaluation where a = sin θ and b = cos θ .

Constraint formulations that enforce both the sine and cosine of a desired orbital element should be used
whenever possible. This approach involves a combination of equality and inequality constraints and
ensures that the “targeted” orbital element is in the correct quadrant.

To illustrate this technique, here are several examples for different values of argument of perigee and the
corresponding mission constraints:

⎧ sin ω > 0 → gh − f k > 0


0D < ω < 90D → ⎨
⎩ f h + g k = e tan ( i 2 ) cos ω

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⎧ sin ω ≤ 0 → gh − f k ≤ 0
ω = 270D → ⎨
⎩cos ω = 0 → f h + gk = 0

⎧ g h − f k = e tan ( i 2 ) sin ω
ω = 178D → ⎨
⎩ cos ω ≤ 0 → f h + gk ≤ 0

The following is a sign table of the sine and cosine for each quadrant.

quadrant sine cosine


1 + +
2 + −
3 − −
4 − +

orbital eccentricity constraint

e= f 2 + g2

For a circular orbit, f = g = 0 .

orbital inclination constraint

⎛i⎞
tan ⎜ ⎟ = h 2 + k 2
⎝2⎠

For an equatorial orbit, h = k = 0 .

argument of perigee constraints

gh− f k
g h − f k = e sin ω tan ( i 2 ) → sin ω =
e tan ( i 2 )

f h+ gk
f h + g k = e cos ω tan ( i 2 ) → cos ω =
e tan ( i 2 )

right ascension of the ascending node constraints

k
k = tan ( i 2 ) sin Ω → sin Ω =
tan ( i 2 )

h
h = tan ( i 2 ) cos Ω → cos Ω =
tan ( i 2 )

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true anomaly constraints

θ = L − (ω + Ω ) = L − tan −1 ( g , f )

In general,
1
sin θ = ( f sin L − g cos L )
e
1
cosθ = ( f cos L + g sin L )
e

For a circular orbit,

sin θ = sin L cos Ω − cos L sin Ω

cosθ = cos L cos Ω + sin L sin Ω

For a circular, equatorial orbit,

θ = L , sin θ = sin L and cosθ = cos L .

Targeting Example

For a user-defined semimajor axis, eccentricity and inclination, the set of modified equinoctial
constraints are as follows:
p = p

f 2 + g 2 = e

h 2 + k 2 = tan ( i 2 )

where the tilde indicates the value of the user-defined classical orbital element.

References

“On the Equinoctial Orbital Elements”, R. A. Brouke and P. J. Cefola, Celestial Mechanics, Vol. 5, pp.
303-310, 1972.

“A Set of Modified Equinoctial Orbital Elements”, M. J. H. Walker, B. Ireland and J. Owens, Celestial
Mechanics, Vol. 36, pp. 409-419, 1985.

“Equinoctial Orbit Elements: Application to Optimal Transfer Problems”, Jean A. Kechichian, AIAA
90-2976, AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Conference, Portland, OR, August 20-22, 1990.

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