The Michigan Tech Space Trajectory Optimization Team was ranked 20 in the 7th Global Trajectory Optimization Competition. This Competition is an event that takes place every one-two years over roughly one month during which the best aerospace engineers and mathematicians worldwide challenge themselves to solve a “nearly-impossible” problem of interplanetary trajectory design.
The 7th edition of the competition was organized by Politecnico di Torino – Università di Roma “Sapienza”, Italy. There were 38 participating teams worldwide. The first place in the 7th edition of the competition is the Outer Planets Mission Analysis Group of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA.
The MTU team consists of:
1- Ossama Abdelkhalik, faculty advisor
2- Ehsan Taheri, MEEM PhD student
3- Shangyan Zou, MEEM PhD student
4- Brandon Jackson, MEEM PhD student
5- Jonathan Curtis, MEEM PhD student
The competition subject space mission is a multiple-ship mission to Main Belt asteroids. A mother ship launches form Earth and releases, at proper times, exploration probes, which must rendezvous with one or more asteroids and then return to and rendezvous with the mother ship. This problem may have an interest per se as far as asteroid missions are concerned, but has also similarities with geocentric missions for satellite refurbishment or debris removal. The mother ship employs high-thrust nuclear propulsion. The probes have autonomous electric propulsion systems. The primary objective is to visit as many asteroids as possible using the probes.
The contest is sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA).
According to the ESA website, “To organise the first international competition to find the global optimal of an interplanetary trajectory was a risky idea. We saw it, a bit romantically perhaps, as a sort of “sailing challenge”, with our galaxy as the racing waters and mathematical tools as the competing boats, thus it is referred to as the “America’s Cup of Rocket Science.”
The challenge problem needs to be related to interplanetary trajectory design and its complexity high enough to ensure a clear competition winner. Over the years, the various problem statements and solutions returned, collected in this website, will form a formidable database of experiences, solutions and challenges for the scientific community.
To view a video of the competition entry See 7th Global Trajectory Optimization Competition – Michigan Tech University solution