Graveyard Orbits Around Mars

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Mars is expected to become a focal point of exploration (human and robotic) in the near future. Extensive operations and continued human presence on the planet would require a robust space infrastructure. Be it navigation satellite constellations or scientific missions in low Mars orbits (LMO) and Areosynchronous orbits (ASO), every satellite would have a definitive period of operation after which it becomes derelict. At the end-of-life (EOL) the satellite could either be left unattended or dealt with in a sustainable manner. The first option is what has led to the problem of space debris in terrestrial orbits. To protect our access to Mars, proactive sustainability needs to be practised already in the design stages of such missions. This project aimed at providing graveyard orbit solutions in circummartian space for future Mars debris. 200-year period stability was studied for orbits using the symplectic integration technique. Extensive validations were performed and propagation settings were tuned to suit a variety of configurations. A plethora of graveyard orbit solutions were found and presented for orbits in ASO and LMO regimes. For example, it was found that transferring an ASO satellite to 400 km below the nominal orbit altitude would ensure a stability margin of +/-25 km for at least 200 years. The protected zones were found to be safe from debris even for an uncertainty in initial eccentricity of 0.01 and a tumbling satellite. Multiple orbital geometry orientations (combinations of semi-major axis, inclination, right ascension of the ascending node), satellite geometries (various values of area-to-mass ratios) and uncertainties were studied to produce a comprehensive analysis of long-term stability of potential graveyard orbits around Mars, making them attractive for such purposes.