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Interplanetary Mission using

Planetary Gravity Assist

One problem with interplanetary travel is that it
takes so long.

The alternative to spending long periods in
heliocentric transfer orbits to reach other planets is
to increase speed.

Speed can be increased by expending more fuel,
but it can also be increased by use of planetary
gravity assist maneuver.

Gravity Assist Maneuver
Also known as planetary flyby trajectory,
slingshot maneuver, swingby trajectory.

Useful in interplanetary missions to obtain a
velocity change without expending propellant.

This free velocity change is provided by the
gravitational field of the flyby planet and can be
used to lower the Av cost of a mission.

Gravity Assist Maneuver
This gravity assist technique uses a planets
gravitational field and orbital velocity to sling shot
a spacecraft, changing its velocity (in magnitude
and direction) with respect to the Sun.

Gravity-assisted velocity changes are not totally
free. Actually, the spacecraft steals velocity from
the planet, causing the planet to speed up or slow
down ever so slightly in its orbit around the Sun.

Gravity assist can also bend the spacecrafts
How does Gravity Assist Work?
As a spacecraft enters a planets sphere of
influence, it coasts on a hyperbolic trajectory
around the planet.

Then, the planet pulls it in the direction of the
planets motion, thus increasing (or decreasing) its
velocity relative to the Sun.

As it leaves the SOI at the far end of the
hyperbolic trajectory, the spacecraft has a new
velocity and direction to take it to another planet.
Gravity Assist Maneuver

Spacecraft passing Spacecraft passing
behind a planet in front of a planet
Gravity Assist Maneuver

Gravity Assist Maneuver

Slingshot referenced to the planet Mars
1 2 P P
V V =

| |
\ .
Gravity Assist Maneuver

Slingshot referenced to the Sun
out in
V V =
Gravity Assist Maneuver
Slingshots do not change the velocity relative to
the planet.

As the probes velocity has increased its kinetic
energy must have changed relative to the Sun.
Energy must be conserved, so this energy must
have come from somewhere. The kinetic energy has
come from the planet, deflecting its orbit by a tiny

Gravity Assist Maneuver

Transfer to Jupiter
with a Mars Flyby
Gravity Assist Maneuver
Orbit pumping (A gravity assist that changes the
magnitude of a spacecrafts velocity).

Orbit cranking (Using a planets gravity to change
the direction of travel).
Douglas J Hopper, Interplanetary Flight Using the
Planetary Gravity Assist Maneuver, A Project Report.