Cloud Computing Methods for Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit Trajectory Design

January 25, 2022

How Does High-Performance Cloud Computing Support Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit?

Complicated mission design problems require innovative computational solutions. As spacecraft depart from a proposed Gateway in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO), recontact analysis is required to avoid the risk of collision and ensure safe operations. Escape dynamics from NRHOs are governed by multiple gravitational bodies, yielding a trajectory design space that is exhaustively large. This paper summarizes the recontact analysis for departure from the NRHO and describes how the Deep Space Trajectory Explorer (DSTE) trajectory design software incorporates high-performance cloud computing to compute and visualize the orbit design space.



Recent focus on exploration missions to cislunar space has kindled accelerated interest in multibody orbit solutions. Trajectory analysis in the presence of multiple gravity fields is complex, and innovative computational tools are needed to simplify complicated design spaces, to generate large quantities of data quickly, and to visualize the output for user accessibility. The Gateway mission is a prime example. The Gateway1 is proposed as a human outpost in deep space. The current baseline orbit for the Gateway is a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) near the Moon.2

The NRHO exists in a regime that experiences the gravitational effects of the Earth and the Moon simultaneously, complicating orbit analysis. The mission design process benefits greatly from updated computational tools for multibody missions like the Gateway.

As an example, consider the problem of assessing the risk of collision in an NRHO. As a staging location to missions to the lunar surface and beyond the Earth-Moon system, the Gateway will host spacecraft and other objects regularly arriving and departing. Departing objects potentially include spent logistics modules, used disposable ascent elements, visiting crew vehicles, debris objects, wastewater particles, and cubesats. Each departure is governed by the dynamics of the Gateway orbit and the surrounding dynamical environment. Over time, any unmaintained object in such an orbit eventually departs due to the small instabilities associated with the NRHOs. A separation maneuver speeds the departure from the NRHO, but the effects of the maneuver on the spacecraft behavior depend on the location, magnitude, and direction of the burn. Escape dynamics from the NRHO with regard to these maneuver options open up an enormous potential trajectory design space where subtle changes in input can produce dramatically large changes in the results. Any departing object must avoid recontacting the Gateway as it leaves the lunar vicinity, and a recontact analysis thus involves a significant number of computations and extensive output data.

To explore the dynamics of this extensive design space, the Deep Space Trajectory Explorer3 (DSTE) trajectory design software incorporates new High Performance Computing (HPC) services and novel interactive visualizations. This paper details the HPC and cloud infrastructure techniques that are implemented in the DSTE, applying the new capabilities to analysis of recontact risk with the Gateway in NRHO.

To learn more, you can read our white paper “Cloud Computing Methods for Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit Trajectory Design.”

Click the image below to download the white paper.

illustrated cover of Cloud Computing Methods For Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit Trajectory Design white paper


1 Gates, M., M. Barrett, J. Caram, V. Crable, D. Irimies, D. Ludban, D. Manzell, and R. Ticker, “Gateway Power and Propulsion Element Development Status,” 69th International Astronautical Congress, Bremen, Germany, October 2018.
2 Zimovan, E., K. C. Howell, and D. C. Davis, “Near Rectilinear Halo Orbits and Their Application in Cis-Lunar Space,” 3rd IAA Conference on Dynamics and Control of Space Systems, Moscow, Russia, May-June 2017.
3 Davis, D.C., S. M. Phillips, and B.P. McCarthy, “Trajectory Design for Saturnian Ocean Worlds orbiters using multidimensional Poincaré maps,” Acta Astronautica, November 2017.
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