STK Lunar Mission Resources
It has been 48 years since Apollo 17, the last crewed lunar mission, safely returned astronauts to Earth. In the nearly five decades since then, there have been fewer lunar missions than in the 1960s alone. It’s about time that changes, and we’re here to help make it happen.
This article provides a compilation of our resources for all your lunar mission planning needs. Systems Tool Kit (STK) and its modules provide an excellent modeling and simulation platform to plan your mission, and its systems and sequences, from start to finish including launch, maneuver planning, b-plane targeting, interplanetary attitude, and lunar terrain analysis. To quickly begin planning a lunar mission from launch to lunar orbit, check out this video tutorial from our YouTube channel that introduces the example Astrogator segment, “Earth to Moon.” This segment provides an easy basis to design a lunar mission for a specific launch date, parking orbit altitude, and lunar orbit. For those looking to dive further into the details of translunar injection targeting, you can find an Astrogator tutorial explaining b-plane targeting for lunar missions in the STK Help. In addition, if you want to fine tune the launch segment of your lunar mission, the Astrogator Launch segment Help topic can be of great use.
Getting to the Moon is only part of lunar mission planning; the tasking of a satellite once at the moon is just as essential. STK also makes this part of the planning very accessible. If you’d like to change the reference frame of the Moon from mean Earth to fixed frame or principle axes frame, you can learn how to edit the text file that determines this setting in this FAQ. It is also possible to adjust the attitude of the spacecraft relative to the Moon after arriving from a translunar injection using Analysis Workbench. You can insert a satellite directly into a lunar orbit by selecting “Planetary Options” in the View tab and changing the Central Body of the object (when you select it in the Insert New window) to “Moon.” This can be helpful for splitting your lunar mission into two parts for independent trade studies or subsystems analyses.
One very useful STK feature for lunar mission planning is the ability to import lunar terrain files in the form of PDS data. Importing lunar terrain can improve the visualization of your scenario and the quality of your analysis, specifically for lunar landing missions or for lunar surface remote sensing missions. You can find a video that outlines the process of importing publicly available lunar terrain data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on our YouTube channel. The combination of high-resolution lunar terrain data and STK’s suite of objects and reports enables you to create accurate representations of lunar-surface line-of-sight access, revisit time, lighting times, and communications capabilities. AGI systems engineer Austin Claybrook used some of these capabilities in his recreation of the Apollo 11 landing. This webinar demonstrates all the concepts and features mentioned here and serves as a good resource for designing a mission with a lunar landing.
Using the resources outlined above, it is possible to create detailed lunar mission scenarios that encompass many subsystems and provide novel insights. With STK, planning and executing a lunar mission is more attainable than ever before.
Be sure to check out our lunar mission webinar series and other YouTube resources.