Michael Minovitch

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Michael A. Minovitch
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Alma mater California
Doctoral advisor Shoshichi Kobayashi
Known for Planetary Grand Tour

Michael Andrew Minovitch (born c. 1936)[1] is an American mathematician who showed that spacecraft trajectories could be designed such that they could gain velocity by travelling close to a planet orbiting the sun.[2] This gravity assist technique was developed in the early 1960s when he was a UCLA graduate student working summers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.[3][4] In 1961 Minovitch began using the fastest available computer, the IBM 7090, to solve the three-body problem that had perplexed astronomers for three centuries. He ran simulations and developed a solution by 1962.[1]

Early studies of comets in the late 19th century showed that their orbits were quite different after they had made a close approach to Jupiter. This indicated that a transfer of energy had occurred during the encounter, but it was not until Minovitch's work that it was shown to be useful in planning an interplanetary voyage.

The first mission to use a gravity assist was Pioneer 10, which increased its velocity from 52,000 km/h to 132,000 km/h as it passed by Jupiter in December, 1973.[5][6]


Michael patented a vehicle for space travel under the patent title Magnetic propulsion system and operating method, US Patent 6193194 B1.


  1. ^ a b Christopher Riley and Dallas Campbell (October 23, 2012). "The maths that made Voyager possible". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  2. ^ Wolverton, Mark (2004). The Depths of Space: The Story of the Pioneer Planetary Probes. Joseph Henry Press. ISBN 0309090504. 
  3. ^ Minovitch, Michael (July 11, 1961). "An Alternative Method for Determination of Elliptic and Hyperbolic Trajectories" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technical Memos (TM-312-118). 
  4. ^ Minovitch, Michael (August 23, 1961). "A Method For Determining Interplanetary Free-Fall Reconnaissance Trajectories" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technical Memos (TM-312-130). pp. 38–44. 
  5. ^ "The Pioneer Missions". nasa.gov. March 26, 2007. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 
  6. ^ Bill Casselman. "Slingshots and Space shots". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 

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