Michael Minovitch

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Michael A. Minovitch
Nationality American
Fields Mathematics
Alma mater California
Doctoral advisor Shoshichi Kobayashi
Known for Calculating spacecraft trajectories

Michael Andrew Minovitch (born c. 1936)[1] is an American mathematician who produced spacecraft trajectories enabling a craft to gain velocity by travelling close to a planet orbiting the sun. His own personal gravity assist technique was developed in the early 1960s when he was a UCLA graduate student and working summers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.[2][3] In 1961 Minovitch began using the fastest available computer at the time, the IBM 7090, to solve the three-body problem. He ran simulations and developed his own 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.

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.[4][5]


Minovitch 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. ^ Minovitch, Michael (July 11, 1961). "An Alternative Method for Determination of Elliptic and Hyperbolic Trajectories" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technical Memos (TM-312-118). 
  3. ^ Minovitch, Michael (August 23, 1961). "A Method For Determining Interplanetary Free-Fall Reconnaissance Trajectories" (PDF). Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technical Memos (TM-312-130): 38–44. 
  4. ^ "The Pioneer Missions". nasa.gov. March 26, 2007. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 
  5. ^ Bill Casselman. "Slingshots and Space shots". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 2015-01-29. 

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