Hamilton-Jacobi modelling of relative motion for formation flying

Egemen Kolemen, N. Jeremy Kasdin, Pini Gurfil

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3 Scopus citations


A precise analytic model for the relative motion of a group of satellites in slightly elliptic orbits is introduced. With this aim, we describe the relative motion of an object relative to a circular or slightly elliptic reference orbit in the rotating Hill frame via a low-order Hamiltonian, and solve the Hamilton-Jacobi equation. This results in a first-order solution to the relative motion identical to the Clohessy-Wiltshire approach; here, however, rather than using initial conditions as our constants of the motion, we utilize the canonical momenta and coordinates. This allows us to treat perturbations in an identical manner, as in the classical Delaunay formulation of the two-body problem. A precise analytical model for the base orbit is chosen with the included effect of zonal harmonics (J2, J3, J4). A Hamiltonian describing the real relative motion is formed and by differing this from the nominal Hamiltonian, the perturbing Hamiltonian is obtained. Using the Hamilton equations, the variational equations for the new constants are found. In a manner analogous to the center manifold reduction procedure, the non-periodic part of the motion is canceled through a magnitude analysis leading to simple boundedness conditions that cancel the drift terms due to the higher order perturbations. Using this condition, the variational equations are integrated to give periodic solutions that closely approximate the results from numerical integration (1mm/per orbit for higher order and eccentricity perturbations and 30cm/per orbit for zonal perturbations). This procedure provides a compact and insightful analytic description of the resulting relative motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-111
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Canonical transformations
  • Formation flying
  • Hamiltonian dynamics


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