Waypoint-based ZEM/ZEV feedback guidance: Applications to low-thrust interplanetary transfer and orbit raising

Roberto Furfaro, Giulia Lanave, Francesco Topputo, Marco Lovera, Richard Linares

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Low-thrust guided trajectories for space missions are extremely important for fuel-efficient autonomous space travel. The goal of this paper is to design an optimized, waypoint-based, closed-loop solution for low-thrust, long duration orbit transfers. The Zero-Effort-Miss/Zero-Effort-Velocity (ZEM/ZEV) feedback guidance algorithm which has been demonstrated to exhibit great potential for autonomous onboard implementation is applied in a waypoint fashion. Generally, ZEM/ZEV is derived by solving an optimal guidance problem under well-defined assumptions, where the gravitational acceleration is either constant or time-dependent and the thrust/acceleration command is unlimited. If gravity is not constant, the target state is generally achieved in a suboptimal fashion. A way to improve the performances is to divide total trajectory into many segments, and determining with a rigorous optimization method near-optimal waypoints to connect the different segments. Here we consider two possible scenarios, i.e. 1) a low-thrust transfer Earth-Mars and 2) a low-thrust orbit raising from LEO to GEO. For both cases, open-loop energy and fuel-optimal trajectories generated by L. Ferrella and F. Topputo are considered as reference trajectories where a set of arbitrary points are targeted by the ZEM/ZEV guidance in a sequential fashion. An initial parametric study is conducted to evaluate guidance performances as function of the number of the selected waypoints. Subsequently, a global optimization problem, parametrized with the position of the points on the trajectory is solved using a genetic algorithm to determine the minimum set of waypoints necessary for close-to-fuel-optimal waypoint space guidance. The optimization results are compared with the parametric analysis for both scenarios to show that the proposed approach is feasible in achieving quasi-optimal performances even for challenging cases where 500 revolutions are required for low-thrust orbit raising in the Earth gravitational field. Finally, the proposed waypoint-based guidance algorithm is simulated in a more realistic scenarios including perturbing acceleration to verify the robustness of the system via a Monte Carlo analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationASTRODYNAMICS 2017
EditorsJohn H. Seago, Nathan J. Strange, Daniel J. Scheeres, Jeffrey S. Parker
PublisherUnivelt Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780877036456
StatePublished - 2018
EventAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2017 - Stevenson, United States
Duration: Aug 20 2017Aug 24 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


OtherAAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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