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Fly to the Moon with FreeFlyer

January 14, 2020

In the 1960s NASA paved the way for human exploration of the moon. From July 1969 to December 1972, NASA ensured that there was human presence on the moon to conduct scientific experiments which helped us learn more about the moon, the Earth, and the solar system; but since then, not a single boot-print has been left on the lunar surface.

A lunar revitalization is happening now, and this time NASA has a lot of help. Space Industry partners are teaming up with NASA to support programs like the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), a program that is sending the next scientific and test payloads to the surface of the moon, and the Artemis program, the next crewed lander system that will put humans back on the moon in preparation for the journey to Mars. Whether you are developing complex lunar orbits like the lunar Gateway, or designing an entire mission for the next commercial lunar landers, FreeFlyer is enabling a new generation of minds to create a new sustained cis-lunar presence.

FreeFlyer can simulate preliminary orbit trajectories in cis-lunar space using high fidelity force modelling of the gravitational influence of planetary bodies, solar radiation pressure effects, and custom defined spacecraft body forces. When the preliminary analysis is done, FreeFlyer is easily integrated into the flight dynamics ground system for mission planning, orbit determination, or mission analysis.

Figure 1: Lunar Orbit.

At NASA’s Johnson Space Center, FreeFlyer is used for many aspects of trajectory design on the Gateway: for risk of recontact for particles/spacecraft departing the Gateway, the arrival and departure of Gateway and lander components, low delta-V escapes to heliocentric space, and lunar surface impact trajectories.

FreeFlyer is also used to design the orbit maintenance algorithms for the Gateway, as well as simulate the effects of those maneuvers on the station itself: Gateway maneuver execution errors based on both RCS systems and solar electric propulsion, impingement of thrusters and plumes on the Gateway structure using 3D models, and fuel budgets for orbit maintenance and attitude control maneuvers are all modeled in FreeFlyer. FreeFlyer is an integral part of the design of the Gateway mission lifecycle.

Figure 2: Lunar Gateway.

Getting to the moon is hard, but lunar trajectory design is easier with the use of FreeFlyer’s powerful and accurate propagation engine and script-based mission customization. Try it out today!

Music by: purple-planet.com