LEOSWEEP: "Improving Low Earth Orbit Security With Enhanced Electric Propulsion" Projects uri icon


  • European Research Project


  • FP7-SPACE-GA-607457

date/time interval

  • November 1, 2013 - December 31, 2016


  • The total mass of space debris in the low Earth orbit region is estimated to be close to 2,500 tons. About half
    of this mass is composed by rocket upper stages clustered in high inclination orbital regions. Because they are
    grouped in a relatively small number of families, acquiring the capability to deorbit just a few upper stage types
    would lead the way towards the elimination of hundreds of tons of debris material in the future. The goal of the
    LEOSWEEP project (improving Low Earth Orbit Security With Enhanced Electric Propulsion) is to demonstrate
    the technological feasibility of a first active removal mission of a Ukrainian rocket upper stage, prove its economic
    viability, and propose a convincing legal and policy implementation to “kick-start” large-scale active debris
    removal activities in Ukraine, Europe and other space faring nations in the future.
    The recently proposed Ion Beam Shepherd (IBS) concept is employed as the key removal technology where the
    use of ionic beams provide an efficient and low-risk contactless manipulation of the debris to be deorbited.
    In order to prove the feasibility of the proposed solution and prepare for its future implementation a series of
    key milestones will be achieved: (1) a detailed understanding of the physics underlining the concept, (2) the
    identification of key technological challenges and concrete solutions (3) the assessment of the concept capability
    in dealing with large-scale removal operations (4) the development of ground-based laboratory experiments,
    (5) the definition of a clear technology and policy development roadmap, (6) the pre-phase A design of a small
    technology demonstration mission and (7) the exploitation and dissemination of the proposal outcomes.
    A world-class international team of universities and industrial partners from Europe and Ukraine has been formed
    in order to perform this study with a high level of theoretical and technical expertise in all relevant fields.


  • contactless manoeuvring; formation flying; gnc; ion beam; impulse transfer thruster; lab experiments; cyclone; dnepr; zenit; demonstration mission; electric propulsion