Concept

Orbital inclination change

Summary
Orbital inclination change is an orbital maneuver aimed at changing the inclination of an orbiting body's orbit. This maneuver is also known as an orbital plane change as the plane of the orbit is tipped. This maneuver requires a change in the orbital velocity vector (delta-v) at the orbital nodes (i.e. the point where the initial and desired orbits intersect, the line of orbital nodes is defined by the intersection of the two orbital planes). In general, inclination changes can take a very large amount of delta-v to perform, and most mission planners try to avoid them whenever possible to conserve fuel. This is typically achieved by launching a spacecraft directly into the desired inclination, or as close to it as possible so as to minimize any inclination change required over the duration of the spacecraft life. Planetary flybys are the most efficient way to achieve large inclination changes, but they are only effective for interplanetary missions. The simplest way to perform a plane change is to perform a burn around one of the two crossing points of the initial and final planes. The delta-v required is the vector change in velocity between the two planes at that point. However, maximum efficiency of inclination changes are achieved at apoapsis, (or apogee), where orbital velocity is the lowest. In some cases, it can require less total delta-v to raise the satellite into a higher orbit, change the orbit plane at the higher apogee, and then lower the satellite to its original altitude. For the most efficient example mentioned above, targeting an inclination at apoapsis also changes the argument of periapsis. However, targeting in this manner limits the mission designer to changing the plane only along the line of apsides. For Hohmann transfer orbits, the initial orbit and the final orbit are 180 degrees apart. Because the transfer orbital plane has to include the central body, such as the Sun, and the initial and final nodes, this can require two 90 degree plane changes to reach and leave the transfer plane.
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