Spacecraft Dynamics near an Asteroid Pair

We study spacecraft motion near a binary asteroid by means of theoretical and computational tools from geometric mechanics and dynamical systems. We model the system assuming that one of the asteroids is a rigid body (ellipsoid) and the other a sphere. In particular, we are interested in finding periodic and quasi-periodic orbits for the spacecraft near the asteroid pair that are suitable for observations and measurements. First, using reduction theory, we study the full two body problem (gravitational interaction between the ellipsoid and the sphere) and use the energy--momentum method to prove nonlinear stability of certain relative equilibria. This study allows us to construct the restricted full three-body problem (RF3BP) for the spacecraft motion around the binary, assuming that the asteroid pair is in relative equilibrium. Then, we compute the modified Lagrangian fixed points and study their spectral stability. The fixed points of the restricted three-body problem are modified in the RF3BP because one of the primaries is a rigid body and not a point mass. A systematic study depending on the parameters of the problem is performed in an effort to understand the rigid body effects on the Lagrangian stability regions. Finally, using frequency analysis, we study the global dynamics near these modified Lagrangian points. From this global picture, we are able to identify (almost)-invariant tori in the stability region near the modified Lagrangian points. Quasi-periodic trajectories on these invariant tori are potentially convenient places to ``park'' the spacecraft, while the spacecraft is observing the asteroid pair.