Relative motion and the geometry of formations in Keplerian elliptic orbits Academic Article uri icon


  • The well-known Hill-Clohessy-Wiltshire equations that are used for the design of formation flight relative orbits are based on a circular reference orbit Classical solutions such as the projected circular or general circular relative orbit are no longer valid in the presence of eccentricity. This paper studies the effects of eccentricity on relative motion for Keplerian orbits. A new linear condition for bounded motion in relative position coordinates is derived that is valid for arbitrary eccentricities and epoch of the reference orbit. It is shown that the solutions to the Tschauner-Hempel equations that are used for rendezvous in elliptic orbits are directly related to the description of relative motion using small orbital element differences. A meaningful geometric parameterization for relative motion near a Keplerian elliptic orbit of arbitrary eccentricity is also developed. The eccentricity-induced effects are studied and exploited to obtain desired shapes of the relative orbit. Equations relating these parameters to initial conditions and differential classical and nonsingular elements are also derived. This parameterization is very useful for the analysis of more complicated models, such as the nonlinear relative motion problem.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Sengupta, P., & Vadali, S. R.

citation count

  • 71

complete list of authors

  • Sengupta, Prasenjit||Vadali, Srinivas R

publication date

  • July 2007