An analytical and numerical study of plane change maneuvers using aerodynamic force
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The goal of the present work is to analyze space missions that use the terrestrial atmosphere to accomplish orbital maneuvers that involve a plane change. A set of analytical solutions is presented for the variation of the orbital elements due to a single passage through the atmosphere, assuming that the interval the spacecraft travels through the atmosphere is not too large. The study considers both the lift influence on the spacecraft orbit as well as drag. The final equations are tested with numerical integration and can be considered in accordance with the numerical results whenever the perigee height is larger than a critical value. Next, a numerical study of the ratio between the velocity increment required to correct the semimajor axis decay due to the atmospheric passage and the velocity variation required to obtain the change in the inclination is also presented. This analysis can be used to decide if a maneuver passing through the atmosphere can decrease the fuel consumption of the mission and, in the cases where this technique can be used, if a multiple passage is more efficient than a single passage.