electronic international standard serial number (EISSN)
The ion beam shepherd is an innovative contactless technique for space debris removal in which an impulse transfer thruster pushes the debris object through the action of a plasma plume and an impulse compensation thruster maintains formation flying. The optimal operational point of both thrusters strongly depends on their characteristics and on the physics of the plasma plume expansion into vacuum. With the use of dedicated thruster performance models, complemented with simplified plume expansion and plasma-debris interaction models, a system-level optimization study of the impulse transfer thruster alone and of the overall electric propulsion subsystem is presented for an ion beam shepherd mission example. An optimum design point is found for minimum overall power consumption in both cases.