Masters Theses

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aerospace Engineering

Major Professor

James E. Lyne

Committee Members

Zhili Zhang, Zhenbo Wang


This research focuses on interplanetary mission design concepts, with the first topic being the study of mission opportunities to Planet Nine, otherwise known as Planet X. Previous studies have speculated about the existence of a large, distant planet beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto. A recent study based on the apparent clustering of perihelia and orbital planes of distant Kuiper Belt Objects identified the most probable values for five of the planet’s orbital elements. However, the true anomaly is still unknown. In this research, a range of critical mission parameters for a Planet X trajectory is analyzed as a function of its position. Due to the great distance of Planet X, surveys of high-thrust architectures using a single Jupiter gravity assist with transit times of 48 and 72 years are observed to collate results. Efforts were made to incorporate a delta-V Earth gravity assist maneuver, but due to the substantial excess speeds needed at Jupiter to achieve reasonable mission durations, no viable trajectories were found. In an effort to reduce C3, increase payload mass and decrease transit time, preliminary investigations were conducted on Earth aerogravity assist maneuvers for Planet X missions. These examinations involved determining the Earth arrival excess speed and the necessary turn angle, serving as a foundation for future comprehensive analyses of the atmospheric trajectories crucial for executing such maneuvers.

The second subject is a continuation of studies to explore the possibilities of reaching the trans-Neptunian Object, Eris, in a shorter time of flight and with reduced energy requirements. Eris is the most massive and second-largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and has a high-eccentricity orbit. The methodology employed for analyzing Planet X trajectories was similarly applied to develop trajectories to Eris. The aim was to enhance mission opportunities by leveraging Earth aerogravity assists, and this involved determining the Earth arrival excess speeds and required turn angles. These findings are crucial for facilitating future investigations into the atmospheric trajectories associated with such maneuvers. The resulting trajectories exhibited flight times ranging from 15 to 25 years, with an average C3 value of 25.35 km2/sec2.

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Astrodynamics Commons