Plotting a course to those hard-to-reach destinations – say Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, and most comets and asteroids – can now be easier thanks to a NASA technologist offering a “paradigm shift” in charting long-haul missions.
Called the Evolutionary Mission Trajectory Generator, or EMTG for short, the tool is the product of Jacob Englander, a technologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md.
Englander devised a concept for his computer-based tool while a doctorate student at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
EMTG can determine mission configurations on a standard desktop computer. Englander used NASA’s Center Innovation Fund support to create the EMTG’s algorithms and software.
Using the tool, a user inputs a series of parameters, such as the spacecraft’s point of origin, its final destination and physical characteristics, as well as a range of launch dates and flight times.
The software tool then uses these data points to calculate the most efficient trajectory, including the number of flybys, for reaching a celestial target.
Englander added that the tool can calculate many different possible trajectories at a time, depending on which parameters a mission planner uses. That dramatically reduces time to calculate a mission configuration, he noted in a NASA GSFC news statement.
Englander said he plans to further improve the EMTG’s fidelity.
“The purpose of EMTG is to enable the design of new types of missions and reduce costs,” Englander said. “Anyone can use this tool.”
Leonard David via Lori Keesey, NASA GSFC