J2-perturbed low-energy orbits around Enceladus

Adham Alkhaja, Francisco Salazar, Elena Fantino, Elisa Maria Alessi, Ashraf Al Khateeb

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The discoveries made by Cassini of geyser-like jets of vapour and organic compounds at the southern polar region of Enceladus have given impulse to detailed studies of this moon. A number of mission plans for the in-situ robotic exploration of Enceladus have been proposed by scientific communities and leading space agencies. The objectives of those plans can only be accomplished with orbits that provide extended observations of the southern polar surface of Enceladus. In a previous contribution, heteroclinic connections between halo orbits around the collinear equilibrium points LL1 and LL2 of Saturn-Enceladus circular restricted three-body problem have been proposed for the purpose. Due to the low altitude of these orbits with respect to the surface of Enceladus and the perturbations of the gravity field of Saturn, the effect of the second zonal harmonics of the two bodies on these low-energy solutions need to be assessed. The present contribution refines the previously computed low-energy trajectories in the J2-perturbed circular restricted three-body problem in which the primaries are Saturn and Enceladus and the polar flattening of Saturn is considered. Halo orbits and their stable and unstable hyperbolic invariant manifolds are obtained in this new framework and used to construct heteroclinic connections. Maneuver-free trajectories are obtained and compared with their unperturbed counterparts. Eventually, the performance of these solutions as science orbits is assessed by evaluating their speed, lunar surface coverage, time of flight and height above the lunar surface over the transfers. The results show a good agreement with the solutions obtained with the unperturbed model, suggesting that these trajectories can serve the purpose of observing Enceladus. In addition, the unperturbed model can be considered as a valid tool for a mission preliminary analysis.

Original languageBritish English
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
StatePublished - 2020
Event71st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 12 Oct 202014 Oct 2020


  • Enceladus
  • Low-energy transfers
  • Planetary observations
  • Saturn
  • Three-body problem
  • Zonal harmonics


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