My research project
Stochastic continuation for space trajectory design in uncertain environments
An essential part of any spacecraft mission is the design, planning, and operation of robust and fuel-efficient trajectories that can fulfill mission requirements while coping with the harsh reality of the space environment. These trajectories are traditionally engineered in a two-step approach. First, orbits are designed in a deterministic fashion, assuming that the dynamics and state of the spacecraft are known with infinite accuracy. Secondly, the robustness of these initial conditions is tested against model uncertainties and knowledge errors using brute-force Monte Carlo simulations that explore different realizations of the uncertainty set. This two-step approach is not only time-consuming but also contributes to slowing down the mission development process as the robustness of candidate orbits can only be assessed a-posteriori.
The goal of this project is to leverage advanced mathematical tools to directly calculate, up to a certain confidence level, regions of the phase space where the spacecraft is expected to orbit depending on the time scales and uncertainties of a user-defined problem. The numerical procedures will be general by nature and therefore applicable to a variety of spacecraft missions, including ESA’s Hera, aiming towards the binary asteroid 65803 Didymos, and the JAXA-lead MMX, destined for Phobos.