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Accueil > A propos du LPP > Communication > Actualités archivées > 2013 > Kickoff of European (FP7) project LEOSWEEP to which LPP participates

Kickoff of European (FP7) project LEOSWEEP to which LPP participates

LEOSWEEP (Low Earth Orbit Security With Enhanced Electric Propulsion)
Space Debris are not only a problem in science fiction movies such as Wall-E, Pixar 2008 and Gravity, Warner Bross pictures 2013, but it is the new technological challenge in space and are a real threat to our active satellites orbiting our planet.
Space Debris is inactive space hardware and fragments of spacecrafts that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned. In 1963 there were 616 man-made objects launched in space and 338 remained in earth orbit for 3 decades. In 2013 the number has reached 23.000 where 16.000 objects larger than 10cm are tracked daily. The increased collision risk for satellites is already noticeable ; since May this year two commercial satellites have been partly destroyed by collision with debris. The total mass of debris in LEO is estimated to 2 500 tons. About half of this mass is composed of upper stage of rockets and are clustered in high inclination orbits. Because they are grouped in a relatively small number of families, acquiring the capability to de-orbit these fragments would lead the way towards the elimination of hundreds of tons of debris in future.
The LEOSWEEP project aims to demonstrate the technological feasibility with a first active removal mission. We will explore the Ion Beam Shepherd (IBS) concept proposed by researchers at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), in which ion beams provide a low-risk contact-less manipulation of debris. A gridded ion thruster will be used to produce the ion beam. As in classical systems this ion beam is neutralized by electrons emitted by an external source. For removal of objects in LEO there is a certain concern that the geomagnetic field acting on light electrons could deviate the plasma beam, affecting strongly its controllability and effectiveness. The problem is possibly more acute in the polar-regions, i.e. the high inclination orbital regions. In prevision of this problem, there is a small task (Work Package) in LEOSWEEP devoted to use the PEGASES thruster as a future, reliable alternative for producing the plasma beam. The ion-ion beam of PEGASES will provide superior beam neutralization efficiency since it is virtually insensitive to the ambient magnetic field and recombines much faster.

For further information contact : Ane Aanesland

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Ion beam Shepherd (IBS) concept.


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Simulations by UPM.

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Directeur de la publication : Dominique Fontaine (Directrice)