Methodology and Eris Facts

Payton M -

Hi everyone, welcome back to my blog! Today I’m going to be sharing what I’ve done so far with my project and what’s still left to work on. With many parts, this project consists of the MATLAB code, research paper, and STK-10 simulation. As of now, I have completed about half of the paper and half of the code. The paper I’m writing goes into detail about the supposed spacecraft design, the theories and derivations I’m using in the code, and the actual trajectory analysis. Possibly the longest section, the Trajectory Analysis is split into four parts: The Hohmann Transfer (Earth to Jupiter), Jovian Orbit Insertion Phase (ideal orbit needed for the plane change), the Plane Change maneuver (to be oriented correctly to set out for Eris), and finally the Orbit Insertion at Eris (putting the spacecraft into a stable orbit around Eris). These four parts are how I’ve broken down the sections of the code as well, to make it more organized and understandable. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I began this project over the summer. During that time I was mainly deciding what kind of trajectory I wanted to create as well as reading books and papers on orbital mechanics to grasp a foundation of the topic. After a few meetings with Joskua and Akash, we decided Eris would be a good target location for the trajectory because it has not been studied in much depth before, and it has unique orbital parameters, including its eccentricity and inclination. The dwarf planet Eris has a very eccentric orbit around the sun, meaning it is very elliptical. An orbit with 0 eccentricity is a circle, and an orbit with an eccentricity greater than 1 is a parabola/hyperbola shape and would no longer be a complete loop. Eris has an eccentricity of 0.436, and for comparison, Earth’s eccentricity is 0.017. Also, Eris’s orbit is very inclined while the main planets in our solar system orbit within the plane of the system. Eris’ inclination of 44 degrees means it orbits the sun at a 44 degree tilt off of the plane that the primary planets orbit. This inclination requires a plane change maneuver at Jupiter to reorient the spacecraft from the plane of the solar system onto a path up to Eris. 

Over the course of the school year, I worked with Akash to learn basic MATLAB skills to complete the first two parts of the code– The Hohmann Transfer/Earth departure and the Jovian Rendezvous (Jupiter Orbit Insertion). In our frequent meetings, Joskua and Akash provided invaluable support, guidance, and solutions to stay on course and surpass challenges. Now, for T3, we have weekly meetings. Over the next few weeks I will be finalizing this code and working on the last two sections (plane change and Eris orbit insertion) as well as making progress in the paper. In March, I plan to go up to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) with Akash to learn STK-10 for the simulation, using their student computers. And, finally in April, I will finish the paper, simulation, and work on the final presentation.  

Thank you to my advisors for spending time so early on to help me and thank you for reading this week’s post! I hope you come back next week when I write some exciting things about the Hohmann Transfer! 


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    What an ingenious plan to use MATLAB to code for the four parts of your project. It's amazing that you've already completed the first two parts and I can't wait to see how you complete the remaining two!
    Elizabeth V
    This is such an amazing project! I can tell you've worked really hard on gathering the data needed and organizing your findings. Will we get to see your simulations in your final presentation? I'm super excited to hear more about your project! Keep up the great work :)
    Payton Miller
    Libby, yes I will definitely have the simulations included in the final presentation! I plan on using them to help the audience visualize the trajectory designed in MATLAB.

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