The Motion of a Material Point in a Newtonian Field under the Action of Equiangular Thrust

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Abstract

The problems of investigation and optimization of the motion of spacecraft are extensively discussed in the literature. Nevertheless, in many cases a large variety of qualitative characteristics of their motion and of the form of their trajectories are still unclear. In this paper we consider a plane equiangular acceleration of a spacecraft both in a Newtonian field and in its absence (at a large distance from the center of attraction). The general equation of a trajectory of plane acceleration is presented with the introduction of a new variable, an index of an exponent, which allows one to obtain convenient solutions at different values of the time-independent angle of inclination of the vector of thrust to the spacecraft's radius vector (i.e., when equiangular acceleration takes place). Asymptotic solutions are constructed and an interesting fact is revealed. Namely, it is shown that when the center of attraction exists or is absent, for all initial conditions the trajectories appearing at the above equiangular acceleration of a material point tend to the standard logarithmic spirals at a large distance from the center. Specifically, when the value of transverse (perpendicular to the radius vector) thrust is constant, there appears a logarithmic spiral with an angle of inclination to the radius vector equal to 35.264°. Different forms of the trajectory of equiangular acceleration of spacecraft at a low thrust are also studied. The results obtained can be useful for the investigation and choice of optimum space trajectories.

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