Knot theory could help spacecraft navigate crowded solar systems

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Space modules must be able to switch orbits in order to explore a solar system

Elen / Alamy Stock Photo

When a spacecraft is circling a planet or sailing among a set of moons, navigating between different orbits can be tough – but a trick from knot theory may help. It can be used to identify points called heteroclinic connections, where a craft can transfer from one orbit to another without burning any of its precious fuel.

“These heteroclinic connections, a lot of the time we know there are some for a pair of orbits, but…

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