Extension of Earth-Moon libration point orbits with solar sail propulsion

Jeannette Heiligers, Malcolm Macdonald, Jeffrey S. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents families of libration point orbits in the Earth-Moon system that originate from complementing the classical circular restricted three-body problem with a solar sail. Through the use of a differential correction scheme in combination with a continuation on the solar sail induced acceleration, families of Lyapunov, halo, vertical Lyapunov, Earth-centred, and distant retrograde orbits are created. As the solar sail circular restricted three-body problem is non-autonomous, a constraint defined within the differential correction scheme ensures that all orbits are periodic with the Sun’s motion around the Earth-Moon system. The continuation method then starts from a classical libration point orbit with a suitable period and increases the solar sail acceleration magnitude to obtain families of orbits that are parametrised by this acceleration. Furthermore, different solar sail steering laws are considered (both in-plane and out-of-plane, and either fixed in the synodic frame or fixed with respect to the direction of Sunlight), adding to the wealth of families of solar sail enabled libration point orbits presented. Finally, the linear stability properties of the generated orbits are investigated to assess the need for active orbital control. It is shown that the solar sail induced acceleration can have a positive effect on the stability of some orbit families, especially those at the L2 point, but that it most often (further) destabilises the orbit. Active control will therefore be needed to ensure long-term survivability of these orbits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number241
Number of pages36
JournalAstrophysics and Space Science: an international journal of astronomy, astrophysics and space science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Differential corrector
  • Distant retrograde orbits
  • Earth-Moon system
  • Halo orbits
  • Libration point orbits
  • Lyapunov orbits
  • Solar sailing
  • Vertical Lyapunov orbits

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