Lunar Mission Design in Five Minutes

With the recent announcement by Mike Pence about the return to the Moon, and the general industry trend to “go faster”, I wanted to share how quick and easy it is to model these types of missions with STK Astrogator. After all, Astrogator was originally created as a result of not having such a tool during the Apollo missions!

This FAQ has step-by-step instructions to generate the spacecraft trajectory and compute contact times to the Deep Space Network (DSN), which takes less than five minutes to complete. Test them out yourself by downloading STK and getting a free evaluation license for Astrogator, or even right from our website using the new STK Cloud trial!


This is just a representative mission design with specific requirements.  In the “Earth To Moon” sequence, you can change the input values to explore different mission designs.  For example, change the Lunar Altitude to 500 KM, then re-run the mission.

For those of you who really want to dig in, check out the new SNOPT, IPOPT, or Optimal Finite maneuver for low-thrust propulsion using collocation-based trajectory optimization.

One of the capabilities used in this example is the Astrogator scripting tool, which give users the ultimate flexibility to design any trajectory that comes to mind.  Additionally, we just included new optimizers to Astrogator using SNOPT and IPOPT, so make sure to check those out as well!

For those who need to go even deeper, leverage one or more of the following STK modules to add on to this scenario:

  • STK Comm to model the link budget to your spacecraft
  • STK EOIR to model the laser communications signal to noise ratio
  • ODTK to simulate the observations and estimate your position uncertainty
  • STK SEET to understand the radiation dosage for your spacecraft
  • STK SOLIS for more detailed spacecraft design and simulation

For a complete overview of AGI capabilities for space systems, check out our capability videos and case studies.

Please contact us if you have any questions about how AGI can help.



Design high-fidelity spacecraft trajectories for mission planning and operations.

Systems Tool Kit (STK)

Modeling and simulation software for digital mission engineering and systems analysis.

Orbit Determination Tool Kit (ODTK)

Process tracking data and generate orbit ephemeris with realistic covariance.