Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

First Adviser

Hart, Terry J.

Other advisers/committee members

Hart, Terry J.; Spencer, David B.; Motee, Nader; Blythe, Philip A.; DeLeo, Gary G.


Missions to Lagrange points are becoming increasingly popular amongst spacecraft mission planners. Lagrange points are locations in space where the gravity force from two bodies, and the centrifugal force acting on a third body, cancel. To date, all spacecraft that have visited a Lagrange point have done so using high-thrust, chemical propulsion. Due to the increasing availability of low-thrust (high efficiency) propulsive devices, and their increasing capability in terms of fuel efficiency and instantaneous thrust, it has now become possible for a spacecraft to reach a Lagrange point orbit without the aid of chemical propellant. While at any given time there are many paths for a low-thrust trajectory to take, only one is optimal. The traditional approach to spacecraft trajectory optimization utilizes some form of gradient-based algorithm. While these algorithms offer numerous advantages, they also have a few significant shortcomings. The three most significant shortcomings are: (1) the fact that an initial guess solution is required to initialize the algorithm, (2) the radius of convergence can be quite small and can allow the algorithm to become trapped in local minima, and (3) gradient information is not always assessable nor always trustworthy for a given problem. To avoid these problems, this dissertation is focused on optimizing a low-thrust transfer trajectory from a geocentric orbit to an Earth-Moon, L1, Lagrange point orbit using the method of Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO). The PSO method is an evolutionary heuristic that was originally written to model birds swarming to locate hidden food sources. This PSO method will enable the exploration of the invariant stable manifold of the target Lagrange point orbit in an effort to optimize the spacecraft's low-thrust trajectory. Examples of these optimized trajectories are presented and contrasted with those found using traditional, gradient-based approaches. In summary, the results of this dissertation find that the PSO method does, indeed, successfully optimize the low-thrust trajectory transfer problem without the need for initial guessing. Furthermore, a two-degree-of-freedom PSO problem formulation significantly outperformed a one-degree-of-freedom formulation by at least an order of magnitude, in terms of CPU time. Finally, the PSO method is also used to solve a traditional, two-burn, impulsive transfer to a Lagrange point orbit using a hybrid optimization algorithm that incorporates a gradient-based shooting algorithm as a pre-optimizer. Surprisingly, the results of this study show that "fast" transfers outperform "slow" transfers in terms of both delta-V and time of flight.