transfer orbit

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The path followed by a spacecraft when moving from one orbit (the departure orbit) to another (the destination orbit). For example, the transfer orbit of a spacecraft from Earth to Mars intersects the Earth's orbit and the orbit of Mars, and involves two firings of the spacecraft's engines, one to put it into the transfer orbit and the other to put it into the destination orbit when it arrives. Such a procedure is also used for transferring communications satellites from low Earth orbit to geostationary orbit. The special case of a transfer orbit that involves minimum expenditure of rocket fuel is known as a Hohmann orbit.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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