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Solar sail formation flying for deep-space remote sensing

Biggs, James and McInnes, Colin (2009) Solar sail formation flying for deep-space remote sensing. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 46 (3). pp. 670-678. ISSN 0022-4650

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Abstract

In this paper we consider how 'near' term solar sails can be used in formation above the ecliptic plane to provide platforms for accurate and continuous remote sensing of the polar regions of the Earth. The dynamics of the solar sail elliptical restricted three-body problem (ERTBP) are exploited for formation flying by identifying a family of periodic orbits above the ecliptic plane. Moreover, we find a family of 1 year periodic orbits where each orbit corresponds to a unique solar sail orientation using a numerical continuation method. It is found through a number of example numerical simulations that this family of orbits can be used for solar sail formation flying. Furthermore, it is illustrated numerically that Solar Sails can provide stable formation keeping platforms that are robust to injection errors. In addition practical trajectories that pass close to the Earth and wind onto these periodic orbits above the ecliptic are identified.