Solar sail orbits at the Earth-Moon libration points

Jules Simo, Colin R. McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
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Solar sail technology offers new capabilities for the analysis and design of space missions. This new concept promises to be useful in overcoming the challenges of moving throughout the solar system. In this paper, novel families of highly non-Keplerian orbits for solar sail spacecraft at linear order are investigated in the Earth-Moon circular restricted three body problem, where the third body is a solar sail. In particular, periodic orbits near the collinear libration points in the Earth-Moon system will be explored along with their applications. The dynamics are completely different from the Earth-Sun system in that the Sun line direction constantly changes in the rotating frame but rotates once per synodic lunar month. Using an approximate, first order analytical solution to the nonlinear nonautonomous ordinary differential equations, periodic orbits can be constructed that are displaced above the plane of the restricted three-body system. This new family of orbits have the property of ensuring visibility of both the lunar far-side and the equatorial regions of the Earth, and can enable new ways of performing lunar telecommunications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4191-4196
Number of pages5
JournalCommunications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • periodic orbit
  • solar sail
  • circular restricted three-body problem
  • space travel

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