Ion Beam Shepherd for Contactless Space Debris Removal

   An Ion Beam Shepherd (IBS) is a concept [1] in which the orbit and/or attitude of a spacecarft or a generic orbiting body is modified by having a beam of quasi-neutral plasma impinging against its surface to create a force and/or a torque on the target. Ion and plasma thrusters commonly used to propel spacecraft can be employed to produce a collimated plasma beam and point it towards the body. The fact that the beam can be generated on a "shepherd" spacecraft placed in proximity of the target without physical attachment with the latter provides an interesting solution for space applications such as space debris removal and asteroid deflection. We are pioneers in exploring this concept by developing analytical and numerical control models in collaboration with the Advanced Concepts Team of the European Space Agency. The concept has also been proposed independently by JAXA and CNES.