Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


Today, Mars is one of the most interesting and important destinations for humankind and copious methods have been proposed to accomplish these future missions. One of the more fascinating methods is the Earth-Mars cycler trajectory which is a trajectory that accomplishes repeat access to Earth and Mars with little to no fuel-burning maneuvers. This would allow fast travel to and from Mars, as well as grant the possibility of multiple missions using the same main vehicle.

Insertion from Earth-orbit onto the cycler trajectory has not been thoroughly ex- plored and the only existing method so far is a Hohmann-esque transfer via direct burn. The use of manifolds from gravitational equilibrium points has not been con- sidered for low energy transfer to the cycler trajectory. This work is primarily focused on closing this gap and analyzing the feasibility of this maneuver.

To accomplish this, a study of the cycler trajectory – and the S1L1-B class specif- ically – was completed. The required gravity assist maneuvers at each planet was analyzed through V∞ matching and the entire trajectory was generated over the re- quired inertial period. This method allowed for the generation of 2 cycler trajectories of the inbound and outbound classes, which combine to allow for a reduction in the amount of time the astronauts spend in space.

The Earth-Sun L2 point is analyzed as a potential hub for the maneuver and a halo orbit about this libration point is optimized for low energy transfer from and Earth parking orbit. The associated invariant manifold is then optimized for launch date and distance to the first trajectory on the cycler in order to burn from a trajectory on the manifold to the cycler trajectory.


The comparisons of this work lie in the required ∆V to perform each maneuver compared to a direct burn onto the cycler trajectory. These values are compared and the practicality of this maneuver is drawn from these comparisons. It was found that the total required ∆V for the manifold method is larger than a direct burn from Earth orbit. However, this considers the trajectory from Earth to the halo orbit and if this is removed from consideration the ∆V is significantly reduced.

It was shown that the feasibility of this method relies heavily on the starting position of the cycler vehicle. If the vehicle begins in Earth-orbit, a direct burn is preferred, however, if the vehicle began in a halo orbit (say it was assembled there) the manifold maneuver is largely preferable.