Demonstrating a new technology for space debris removal using a bi-directional plasma thruster

Kazunori Takahashi, Christine Charles, Rod W. Boswell, Akira Ando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Space debris removal from Earth orbit by using a satellite is an emergent technological challenge for sustainable human activities in space. In order to de-orbit debris it is necessary to impart a force to decelerate it, resulting in its atmospheric re-entry. A satellite using an energetic plasma beam directed at the debris will need to eject plasma in the opposite direction in a controlled manner in order to maintain a constant distance between it and the debris during the deorbiting mission. By employing a magnetic nozzle plasma thruster having two open source exits, bi-directional plasma ejection can be achieved using a single electric propulsion device. Both the forces exerted on the thruster and the target plate simulating the debris are simultaneously measured in a laboratory space simulation chamber showing that a force decelerating the debris and a zero net force on the thruster can be successfully obtained. These two forces can be individually controlled by external electrical parameters, resulting in the ability to switch the acceleration and deceleration modes of the satellite and the debris removal mode using a single electric propulsion device.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14417
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec 1


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