Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Application Domains

Aerospace Engineering

Space engineering is very demanding in terms of safe and high-performance control laws. It is therefore prone to fruitful industrial collaborations.

McTAO now has an established expertise in space and celestial mechanics. Our collaborations with industry are mostly on orbit transfer problems with low-thrust propulsion. It can be orbit transfer to put a commercial satellite on station, in which case the dynamics are a Newtonian force field plus perturbations and the small control. There is also, currently, a renewed interest in low-thrust missions such as Lisa Pathfinder (ESA mission towards a Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system) or BepiColombo (joint ESA-JAXA mission towards Mercury). Such missions look more like a controlled multibody system. In all cases the problem involves long orbit transfers, typically with many revolutions around the primary celestial body. When minimizing time, averaging techniques provide a good approximation. Another important criterion in practice is fuel consumption minimization (crucial because only a finite amount of fuel is onboard a satellite for all its “life”), which amounts to L1-minimization. Both topics are studied by the team.

Another application is the optimization of space launchers, this lead to issues in stochastic optimization, see section 6.6.1.

We have a steady relationships with CNES and Thales Alenia Space (Cannes), that have financed or co-financed 3 PhDs and 2 post-docs in the Sophia location of the team in the decade and are a source of inspiration even at the methodological level. Team members also have close connections with Airbus-Safran (Les Mureaux) on launchers.

Some of the authoritative papers in the field were written by team members, with an emphasis on the geometric analysis and on algorithms (coupling of shooting and continuation methods). There are also connections with peers more on the applied side, like D. Scheeres (Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at Boulder), the group of F. Bernelli (Politecnico Milano), and colleagues from U. Barcelona (A. Farrès, A. Jorba).