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Celestial mechanics, particularly as it relates to spacecraft navigation

  1. Oct 3, 2014 #1


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    I'm trying to teach myself celestial mechanics, particularly as it relates to spacecraft navigation. Essentially I'm interested in how spacecraft can get from A to B with the lowest delta-V (or whatever the criteria are), and how mission planners figure this out. Can anyone recommend a good book, or even better, a good online course? I have an undergraduate degree in astrophysics and a decent math background, but most of what I know about celestial mechanics comes from Kerbal Space Program.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2014 #2
    Thanks for the post! Sorry you aren't generating responses at the moment. Do you have any further information, come to any new conclusions or is it possible to reword the post?
  4. Oct 12, 2014 #3
    The discipline that addresses these questions can usually be found in electrical enginee ring or aerospace engineering departments at good universities and institutes. The subject is called optimal control, and the course may be called optimal control theory, or modern control theory.

    Some good textbooks are 1. Frank L Lewis Optimal Control. (I believe the newest edition may have a co-author with Lewis). 2. Kwakernaak and Sivan: Linear Optimal Control Systems, and 3. Kirk, Optimal Control Theory and 4: Bryson and Ho: Applied Optimal Control..

    2. K& S addresses only linear optimal control so the problems are more restrictive, but it is still good. I do now know if they address minimum delta-v's problems like the others.

    You man have to learn Modern Control Theory first from a book like 1. Brogan: Modern Control theory, 2. Luenberger, Introduction to Dynamic Systems. has a book with a different flavor is also good..

    For Example: Bryson and Ho shows an example where he addresses a soft landing on the moon minimizing control effort. (Warning: Bryson and Ho do not show a lot of intermediate steps, and you have to be a very conscientious student to fill in the problems, often with a computer. However, I can tell you the problems I examined like this one can be done.) Lewis is similar to Bryson and Ho and borrows many examples from them, and is more readable.

    I came to optimal control later in my professional life or there is a good chance I would have settled here for graduate schoolwork rather than physics. There are many interesting problems that may be settled within the productive period of current researchers, rather than have to wait several generations for the Higgs, magnetic monopoles, dark matter explanations, or whatever the current particle theorists are searching for.
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