Would this type of orbit be possible to achieve without external forces being applied? Is it possible at all? I have little to no background in the sciences so please explain like I'm stupid. Thanks!

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/31201/… $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 6 '17 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ @H.Mallory But note that an orbit that's too unstable for a planet can work just fine for a space station, since it only has to stay in the orbit for years rather than billions of years, and it can adjust its orbit slightly from time to time. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Sep 6 '17 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thats a good point Mike. This gives me a lot to work with. Thank you for your input. $\endgroup$ – H. Mallory Sep 6 '17 at 7:39

This is called the 3-body problem. You can find depicted a number of stable orbits. Here is one in 2d that I like.

from http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/chaos/3body.htm 2d depiction of stable 3-body orbit

There is a collection of 3-body orbits in this bizarre site. http://three-body.ipb.ac.rs/

The pictures are pretty enter image description here

but the text appears very, very slowly...


That orbit is possible, if unstable (would need active correction from space station).

You would also be interested to Low Energy Transfer Orbits where you can plan a trip between several bodies (planets or, more easily moons) by switching orbit at certain exchange points.

These orbits are "slow" if compared with other solutions, including the classical Hohmann Transfer Orbits, but require very low impulse, perhaps compatible with Space Station attitude engines.


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