Low-thrust Trajectory Optimization to Earth’s Mini-Moons

A Case Study of 2006 RH120

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Temporarily Captured Orbiters (TCOs) - also known as Earth’s mini-moons – are meter-size asteroid fragments temporarily trapped in the Earth-Moon system. TCOs are challenging to identify due to their small size and high speed. While only two TCOs have been confirmed so far, studies suggest a constant presence of at least one TCO at any given moment. This research aims to analyze transfer possibilities to these objects using a spacecraft powered by low-thrust electric propulsion departing from hibernating orbits near Sun-Earth L1. The study focuses on the TCO 2006 RH120, but it intends to develop tools that can be used to analyze other TCOs as they are discovered by advanced survey systems under development. A fast and robust optimization algorithm is developed, which successfully analyzes various departure orbits and identifies low delta-v transfers in the order of 200 m/s.