Image Number 13 for United States Patent #6341250.
When a satellite is orbiting the earth in an elliptic orbit, it has a certain inclination with respect to the earth's equator. The usual way to change the inclination is perform a maneuver by firing the rocket engines at the periapsis of the ellipse. This then forces the satellite into the desired inclination. There is a substantially more fuel efficient way to change the inclination. This is done by an indirect route by first doing a maneuver to bring the satellite to the moon on a BCT (Ballistic Capture Transfer). At the moon, the satellite is in the so called fuzzy boundary or weak stability boundary. A negligibly small maneuver can then bring it back to the earth on a reverse BCT to the desired earth inclination. Another maneuver puts it into the new ellipse at the earth. In the case of satellites launched from Vandenberg AFB into LEO in a circular orbit of an altitude of 700 km with an inclination of 34.degree., approximately 6 km/s is required to change the inclination to 90.degree.. This yields a savings of approximately 13% in Delta-V as compared to the standard approach which could translate into a significant increase of payload or perhaps a smaller launch vehicle. This may have applications to commercial satellite launches for the Iridium or Teledesic networks and others.