Stabilizing periodic orbits above the elliptic plane in the solar sail 3-body problem

J.D. Biggs, C. McInnes, T. Waters

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We consider periodic orbits high above the ecliptic plane in the Elliptic Restricted Three-Body Problem where the third massless body is a solar sail. Periodic orbits above the ecliptic are of practical interest as they are ideally positioned for the year-round constant imaging of, and communication with, the poles. Initially we identify an unstable periodic orbit by using a numerical continuation from a known periodic orbit above the ecliptic in the circular case with the eccentricity as the varying parameter. This orbit is then used to construct a reference trajectory for the sail to track. In addition we illustrate an alternative method for constructing a periodic reference trajectory based on a time-delayed feedback mechanism. The reference trajectories are then tracked using a linear feedback regulator (LQR) where the control actuation is delivered by varying the solar sails orientation. Using this method it is shown that a 'near term' solar sail is capable of performing stable periodic motions high above the ecliptic.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008
Event59th International Astronautical Congress - Glasgow, Scotland
Duration: 29 Sep 20083 Oct 2008


Conference59th International Astronautical Congress
CityGlasgow, Scotland


  • solar sails
  • orbits
  • elliptic plane
  • three body problem


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