Vol 14, No 5

Electromagnetic effects on the orbital motion of a charged spacecraft

Yehia Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, Khalil Ibrahim Khalil


Abstract This paper deals with the effects of electromagnetic forces on the orbital motion of a spacecraft. The electrostatic charge which a spacecraft generates on its surface in the Earth’s magnetic field will be subject to a perturbative Lorentz force. A model incorporating all Lorentz forces as a function of orbital elements has been developed on the basis of magnetic and electric fields. This Lorentz force can be used to modify or perturb the spacecraft’s orbits. Lagrange’s planetary equations in the Gauss variational form are derived using the Lorentz force as a perturbation to a Keplerian orbit. Our approach incorporates orbital inclination and the true anomaly. The numerical results of Lagrange’s planetary equations for some operational satellites show that the perturbation in the orbital elements of the spacecraft is a second order perturbation for a certain value of charge. The effect of the Lorentz force due to its magnetic component is three times that of the Lorentz force due to its electric component. In addition, the numerical results confirm that the strong effects are due to the Lorentz force in a polar orbit, which is consistent with realistic physical phenomena that occur in polar orbits. The results confirm that the magnitude of the Lorentz force depends on the amount of charge. This means that we can use artificial charging to create a force to control the attitude and orbital motion of a spacecraft.


Keywords space vehicles — atmospheric effects — celestial mechanics — kinematics and dynamics

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