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Drag Pass Maneuver Movie



Perigee - point on an earth orbit closest to the earth.
Apogee - point on an earth orbit furthest from the earth.

In this movie an object falls from a distant point, perhaps the Earth-Moon Lagrange 1 (EML1) neighborhood.

At perigee it passes through the earth's upper atmosphere, slowing it down and lowering the apogee.

Using this aerobraking drag pass maneuver, the delta V from EML1 to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is just .7 km/sec. If the payload had to use rocket fuel to circularize the orbit at perigee, the delta V budget would have been much greater: 3.8 km/sec.

The delta V between the moon and EML1 is about 2.5 km/sec. Since the moon is airless, most of this could be accomplished with a lunar mass driver. There are thought to be thick sheets of ice at the lunar poles. [link] Water can be split into hydrogen and oxygen and used as propellant. I envision lunar propellant being sent to depots at EML1 and LEO. This would make the inner solar system much more accessible.

The drag pass manuever was used by the Mars Global Surveyor for Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI): [link] . Also by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: [link]

If upper atmospheres stayed at a constant density, aerobraking manuevers would be fairly straight forward. But they don't, so aerobraking, at this time, is more art than science: [link]
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ozplasmic's avatar
That's pretty cool stuff!
Are you looking forward to the Mars approach in August!
I hope it looks like it's meant to.