Mission Analysis for Solar System Exploration


The present-day approach to selecting missions for solar system exploration is based largely on price-performance ratio – getting the most for the least within an acceptable level of risk. Mission analysis plays an enormous role in this process as mission designs become ever more complex to qualify under the selection criteria currently being applied. The hugely successful Cassini mission to Saturn has set the bar for level of complexity in mission design, but this distinction is temporal as the Messenger mission engages in its lengthy and circuitous path to its final destination in orbit about Mercury, preceded with several swingbys of Earth, Venus and Mercury and major space burns. As the tools and methodologies for the analysis of such missions are refined, increasingly elaborate mission designs are to be expected and demanded. This three-day course is designed to prepare engineers and technical management for the task of adequately planning and supporting the mission analysis function to successfully accomplish its role in a solar system exploration project. The course also provides the background and direction needed for those interested in mission analysis to pursue their craft in an organized and expeditious manner.

What you will learn:

  • What skills and capabilities are needed to successfully compete for exploration mission opportunities and associated subcontracts.
  • What innovative concepts exist to efficiently accomplish mission objectives and when to choose one concept over another.
  • What are the state-of-the-art methodologies for conducting mission analyses.
  • The importance of choosing or building the appropriate software at each stage of a study.
  • What software tools exist for performing analyses of various types of missions and what are underlying limitations of their use.
  • Critical issues concerning the management of the mission analysis function.The information and techniques provided in this course will provide you with the basic understanding and underlying principles that are essential to successfully plan, manage and perform solar system exploration mission analysis studies.

Course Outline:

  1. The Solar System Environment. Targets of exploration-sun, planets, natural satellites, asteroids, comets. Ephemerides of solar system bodies. Libration points.
  2. Building on Success. Historical exploration missions of significance. Current missions. The Discovery program. Impact of “smaller, cheaper, better” philosophy.
  3. Phases of Mission Analysis. Preliminary phase with emphasis on speed and conceptualization. Later phase with emphasis on accuracy and detail. Implication on tools and methodologies.
  4. Fundamentals of Heliocentric Orbit Transfers. Kepler’s Problem, Lambert’s Problem and its solution. Type I and Type II transfers. Posigrade and retrograde trajectories. Multiple revolution trajectories. N-pi transfers.
  5. Multi-leg Missions. Linking trajectory legs to form missions.Correspondence between target centered and heliocentric end conditions. Hyperbolic excess speed. The patched conic and matched (overlaid) asymptote models. Space burn maneuvers.
  6. Target Encounters. The planetary swingby. Tisserand’s criterion and graphical methods. B-plane targeting. Powered swingbys. Planetary orbit capture and escape. Asteroid/comet flyby and rendezvous.
  7. Correlating Trajectory and Propulsion Requirements. Spacecraft mass models. Propulsion system models. The rocket equation. Impulsive velocity calculations. Estimating velocity losses resulting from finite burn effects. Reducing velocity losses.
  8. Concepts of Exploration Mission Design. Creating and using porkchop plots. Growing importance of planetary swingbys. Swingbys always reduce propulsion requirements, right? Uses of space burns. Single and repeated planetary swingbys. Uses of n-pi transfers, Nodal transfers. Building multiple-target missions. Implications of human space flight on mission design.
  9. Trajectory and Mission Optimization. Direct versus indirect optimization methods. Formulating the problem. Dealing with convergence difficulties. Locally optimizing solutions.
  10. Case Study of a High Thrust Solar System Exploration Mission Analysis.
  11. Low-Thrust Mission Analysis and Optimization. Differences in analysis techniques compared to high-thrust missions. Methods of optimization. Commonly used software tools. Problem formulation using the Calculus of Variations.
  12. Power System Modeling. Representing array power output as a function of solar distance.
  13. Propulsion System Modeling. The classic model. Programmed modeling of representative ion thrusters (e.g. NSTAR, NEXT, etc). A proposed model based on a thruster operating envelope.
  14. Case Study of Solar Electric Propulsion Mission Design and Optimization.


REGISTRATION:  There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course.   We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING:  If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or ati@aticourses.com. Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time.   To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at ati@aticourses.com.

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at ati@aticourses.com.


  • Jose J. Guzman , Ph.D. obtained his Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University. He joined a.i. solutions in 2001 and was a member of the NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) trajectory design and maneuver team. WMAP is the first spacecraft to be stationed in the vicinity of the Sun-Earth L2 point for its complete science mission duration. The trajectory included Earth phasing loops (highly eccentric orbits) with maneuvers that boosted the spacecraft to lunar orbit distance. A lunar flyby was then performed to insert the spacecraft into a Lissajous orbit. From 2004 to 2009, Dr. Guzman was a senior member of the technical staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). At APL, he enjoyed working on low-thrust trajectories to comets and on lunar mission studies. He was also in the trajectory design and analysis team for the STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission. STEREO is the first mission to utilize Earth phasing loops and lunar swingbys for two spacecraft simultaneously. The paper “STEREO Trajectory and Maneuver Design,” written by Dr. David W. Dunham, Dr. Guzman, and Mr. Peter Sharer in the Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, 28(2):104-125, won the 2009 Walter G. Berl Award for Outstanding Paper in the APL Technical Digest. Dr. Guzman is currently a principal senior engineer at Orbital Sciences. At Orbital he currently works on the mission design and planning for cargo missions to the International Space Station. Dr. Guzman has also helped with several orbit transfers to the Geosynchronous belt and has provided expertise for proposals and new business opportunities. Dr. Guzman is a member of the American Astronautical Society and a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He has been a lecturer at The Johns Hopkins University and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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