ABSTRACT The lifetime of a lunar satellite orbit is constrained by the non-spherical nature of the Moon’s gravity field. The orbital lifetime of lunar orbits depends significantly on the initial conditions of the orbit. Right ascension of ascending node (Ω) is one of the important orbital parameter affecting the orbital lifetime. In the present work we have analyzed the effect of Ω on the variation of lifetime with altitude for circular lunar orbits. It is found that at a particular initial altitude, a small increase in the altitude results in substantial increase in the orbital lifetime due to effect of the long periodic terms of Earth’s gravity on eccentricity and this transition altitude is different for different Ω. Further, it is observed that the variation of transition altitude with Ω follows a definite, but different trend for orbits with different inclinations. The transition altitude for polar orbits is found to be higher without the effect of Sun and Earth gravity. Variation of transition altitude with orbital inclination is also analyzed. Lifetimes of high altitude circular lunar orbits are analyzed and it is observed that at high altitudes lifetime decreases with altitude.
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