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The Pontryagin Maximum Principle and asteroid missions

Professor Monique Chyba and graduate student Geoff Patterson from the UH Department of Mathematics have a joint project with Robert Jedicke from the UH Institute for Astronomy to design spacecraft rendezvous missions with Temporarily Captured Orbiters (TCOs), the so-called minimoons, which
form a subset of the population of Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

The spacecraft is parked on a Halo orbit around the Earth-Moon’s L1 or L2 libration points and the criterion to minimize during the transfer is the consumption of fuel.

Using a sun perturbed 4 body model, and indirect methods based on the Pontryagin Maximum Principle, combined with continuation techniques and a direct method to address the sensitivity of the initialization, they compute efficient rendezvous missions to a large pool of synthetic minimoons.

This project is one of the topics at the outreach event Reach for the Stars on December 10, 2014.