Numerical investigations have been carried out to analyse the evolution of lunar circular orbits and the influence of the higher order harmonics of the lunar gravity field. The aim is to select the appropriate near-circular orbit characteristics, which extend orbit life through passive orbit maintenance. The spherical harmonic terms that make major contributions to the orbital behaviour are identified through many case studies. It is found that for low circular orbits, the 7th and the 9th zonal harmonics have predominant effect in the case of orbits for which the evolution is stable and the life is longer, and also in the case of orbits for which the evolution is unstable and a crash takes place in a short duration. By analysing the contribution of the harmonic terms to the orbit behaviour, the appropriate near-circular orbit characteristics are identified.
Volume 129, 2020
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