Parallelized Model of Low-Thrust Cargo Spacecraft Trajectories and Payload Capabilities to Mars

Wesley Yu and Hans Mark

Volume 8, Issue 2 (August 2017), pp. 46–53

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  author={Wesley Yu and Hans Mark},
  title={Parallelized Model of Low-Thrust Cargo Spacecraft  Trajectories and Payload Capabilities to Mars},
  journal={The Journal of Computational Science Education},
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As a Blue Waters Student Internship Program project, we have developed a model of interplanetary low-thrust trajectories from Earth to Mars for spacecrafts supplying necessary cargo for future human-crewed missions. Since these cargo missions use ionic propulsion that causes a gradual change in the spacecraft's velocity, the modeling is more computationally expensive than conventional trajectories assuming instantaneous spacecraft velocity changes. This model calculates the spacecraft's time of flight and swept angle at different payload masses with other parameters kept constant and correlates them with known locations of the planets. With parallelization using OpenMP on Blue Waters, its runtime has decreased from 10.55 to 1.53 hours. The program takes a user-selected Mars arrival date and outputs a given range of dates with maximum payload capabilities. This parallelized model will greatly reduce the time required for future mission design projects when other factors like spacecraft solar panel power output may vary with new mission specifications. The internship experience has enhanced the intern's ability to manage a project and will impact positively on his future graduate studies or research career.