# Hohmann transfer orbit

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Hohmann transfer orbit, labelled 2, from a low orbit (1) to a higher orbit (3).

In orbital mechanics, the Hohmann transfer orbit Template:IPAc-en is an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radii in the same plane.

## Application to interplanetary travel

When used to move a spacecraft from orbiting one planet to orbiting another, the situation becomes somewhat more complex, but fortuitously, much less delta-v is required due to the Oberth effect.

For example, consider a spacecraft travelling from the Earth to Mars. At the beginning of its journey, the spacecraft will already have a certain velocity and kinetic energy associated with its orbit around Earth. During the burn the rocket engine applies its delta-v, but the kinetic energy increases as a square law, until it is sufficient to escape the planet's gravitational potential, and then burns more so as to gain enough energy to reach the Hohmann transfer orbit (around the Sun). Because the rocket engine is able make use of the initial kinetic energy of the propellant, far less delta-v is required over and above that needed to reach escape velocity, and the optimum situation is when the transfer burn is made at minimum altitude (low periapsis) above the planet.

At the other end, the spacecraft will need a certain velocity to orbit Mars, which will actually be less than the velocity needed to continue orbiting the Sun in the transfer orbit, let alone attempting to orbit the Sun in a Mars-like orbit. Therefore, the spacecraft will have to decelerate in order for Mars' gravity to capture it. This capture burn should optimally be done at low altitude to also make best use of Oberth effect. Therefore, relatively small amounts of thrust at either end of the trip are needed to arrange the transfer compared to the free space situation.

However, with any Hohmann transfer, the alignment of the two planets in their orbits is crucial – the destination planet and the spacecraft must arrive at the same point in their respective orbits around the Sun at the same time. This requirement for alignment gives rise to the concept of launch windows.

## Hohmann transfer versus low thrust orbits

### Low-thrust transfer

It can be shown that going from one circular orbit to another by gradually changing the radius costs a delta-v of simply the absolute value of the difference between the two speeds. Thus for the geostationary transfer orbit 7.7 − 3.07 = 4.66 km/s, the same as, in the absence of gravity, the deceleration would cost. In fact, acceleration is applied to compensate half of the deceleration due to moving outward. Therefore the acceleration due to thrust is equal to the deceleration due to the combined effect of thrust and gravity.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} Such a low-thrust maneuver requires more delta-v than a 2-burn Hohmann transfer maneuver, requiring more fuel for a given engine design. However, if only low-thrust maneuvers are required on a mission, then continuously firing a low-thrust, but very high-efficiency (high effective exhaust velocity) engine might generate this higher delta-v using less propellant mass than a high-thrust engine using an otherwise more efficient Hohmann transfer maneuver. The amount of propellant mass used measures the efficiency of the maneuver plus the hardware employed for it. The total delta-v used measures the efficiency of the maneuver only. For electric propulsion systems, which tend to be low-thrust, the high efficiency of the propulsive system usually vastly compensates for the inability to make the more efficient Hohmann maneuver.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

### Interplanetary Transport Network

In 1997, a set of orbits known as the Interplanetary Transport Network was published, providing even lower propulsive delta-v (though much slower and longer) paths between different orbits than Hohmann transfer orbits.[3] The Interplanetary Transport Network is different in nature than Hohmann transfers because Hohmann transfers assume only one large body whereas the Interplanetary Transport Network does not. The Interplanetary Transport Network is able to achieve the use of less propulsive delta-v by employing gravity assist from the planets. The gravity assist provides "free" delta-v without the use of the propulsion systems.

## Application

One of the most successful application of this maneuver was in the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan,[4] which is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India's first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so. The efficient application of this orbital maneuver has also contributed in significantly reducing the cost of the overall mission.

## See also

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## References

1. Walter Hohmann, The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies (Washington: NASA Technical Translation F-44, 1960) Internet Archive.
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3. Lo, M., S. Ross, Surfing the Solar System: Invariant Manifolds and the Dynamics of the Solar System, JPL IOM 312/97, 1997.
4. Mars Orbiter Mission
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