Engineering Professional Education

Orbit Mechanics


Credit Hours: 3

Learning Objective:
Introduce students to spacecraft orbital dynamics and the issues associated with orbital control and station keeping. Primary focus in regimes where two-body analysis and conics are a valid model. Computation and implementation of impulsive maneuvers in three dimensions; transfer orbits and Lambert's theorem to support discussions of mission trajectory design. Impact of the trajectory on other subsystems.

Natural behavior of planets and moons in the solar system as well as spacecraft motion: orbit dynamics, perturbations, and stability; trajectory control, on-orbit maneuvers, and transfers; mission design, patched conics.

Topics Covered:
1. Introduction to the laws of Kepler and Newton; universal gravitation and integrals of motion.2. Fundamental concepts associated with the two-body problem and conics; orbital elements.3. Orbital maneuvers: (1) orbit establishment; (2) single impulse adjustments; (3) multiple impulse transfers including Hohmann transfers, local gravity fields and flybys, Hoelker and Silber transfers, Lambert time-of-flight theorem, three-dimensional transfers; (4) mission design issues.4. Orbital perturbations including Euler-Hill equations for two-close orbiters and some navigational issues.

1. Calculus and differential equations through ODEs 2. Vector mechanics; particle/rigid body kinematics and dynamics; three-dimensional coordinate systems and transformations 3. Some introduction to perturbations and linear algebra 4. Numerical methods and tools such as MATLAB.

Web Address:

Web Content:
Syllabus, Grades, Lecture Notes, Homework Assignments and Solutions.

Homework 55%


Two midterms and a final exam.

Official textbook information is now listed in the Schedule of Classes. NOTE: Textbook information is subject to be changed at any time at the discretion of the faculty member. If you have questions or concerns please contact the academic department.
Tentative: No textbook required.

Computer Requirements:
ProEd Minimum Computer Requirements

ProEd Minimum Requirements: view

Tuition & Fees: view


Fall 2018
Fall 2020
Fall 2022


Kathleen C. Howell

765 494-5786


Purdue University
Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering
701 W Stadium Ave
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2045

Instructor HomePage