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IBIS. Ensuring a safe exploitation of space

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[IBIS]Commercial_sheet_UPM_EN(Innovatech) PDF

An all-in-one software for the design of Active Space Debris Removal missions using plasma beams.

IBIS (Ion Beam Interaction Software) is a highly advanced numerical simulation tool oriented to the end-to-end design and analysis of Active Space Debris Removal missions using a novel removal concept based on contactless ion beam actuation and known as Ion Beam Shepherd (IBS). This software combines in a single code a collection of cutting-edge models and algorithms covering every technology area relevant to the IBS concept, ranging from orbital mechanics to space electric propulsion, plasma plume expansions, plasma-body interaction, proximity formation flying or guidance, navigation and control laws. IBIS includes a complete set of functionalities and features required for a full mission design, evaluation of performances and subsystem-level optimization, based on over 20 years of research in the Technical University of Madrid in these fields, brought under an intuitive graphical user interface that puts all our expertise at the fingertips of both experts and professional.

Technology Solution

IBIS combines, within a multi-physics approach, a set of algorithms for studying  both the orbital mechanics and plasma physics, along with the plasma-body interaction dynamics, aimed at the study of the Ion Beam Shepherd concept, the analysis of its performance and the design of Active Space Debris Removal missions relying on this concept. Thus, IBIS succeeds to bring together an unprecedented combination of advanced algorithms and models, ranging from the coupled orbital and attitude dynamics and the relative orbital motion, to the plasma beam expansion and the interaction with the space debris,  along with the momentum transfer, quantification of the back-sputtering or evaluation of the control algorithms, providing fast and precise results from a functional and appealing graphical user interface.


“The IBIS software gathers a complete set of advanced models, algorithms and functionalities for an end-to-end design and analysis of an Ion Beam Shepherd mission and its performances”



Market demands

  • The safe exploitation of space as a resource for humanity is endangered by 6000 tons of space debris, causing on average one collision every 10 years. The last collision happened between the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 on February 10th, 2009.
  • In 2011 NASA reported 9 collision avoidance maneuvers, incurring in undesired operational costs. The frequency of collision avoidance maneuvers is expected to increase every year.
  • New launches in the coming years will contribute to increase the population of space debris at the end of their lifetime.
  • NASA and other space agencies claim that, even if no new objects are launched into orbit, the population of space debris will continue increasing due to collisions of existing objects.
  • Space agencies have issued recommendations to deorbit future satellites and launcher upper stages in a reasonable time, as a partial solution to the space debris problem, a.k.a. Passive Space Debris Removal.
  • However, Passive Space Debris Removal is not enough to asses the space debris problem, because it does not reduce the current population of space debris. It is therefore necessary to combine these measures with Active Space Debris Removal.
  • According to NASA, the removal of a few big sized objects from orbit would suffice to reduce the current collision risk an order of magnitude.

“Countries will soon need to face the problem of Space Debris and plan Active Debris Removal measures, where the Ion Beam Shepherd concept certainly stands as one of the safest and most efficient solutions.”

Market potential

  • Over a thousand satellites will be put in orbit during the next decade, with an estimated manufacturing + launching costs of 150 billion €.
  • Currently there are 6000 tons of space debris, which are a potential hazard for every operative satellite and impose a lethal threat for the astronauts on-board the International Space Station.
  • A satellite collision with space debris results in operational and economical losses that may be worth hundreds of millions of €.
  • A collision with space debris produces thousands of new space debris objects, increasing the number of hazardous objects and endangering the safe and viable exploitation of space.
  • Even with no new satellite launches, the current number of objects in orbit is so high that new collisions will keep on happening, which may result in a snowball effect that would yield Earth orbit unusable (a.k.a. Kessler Syndrome).

Basura espacial

Competitive advantages

  • Built-in databases of space debris objects and other geometries, materials and thrusters are provided.
  • Geometries, sensors, actuators, control algorithms and many other subsystems are fully customizable.
  • Accurate estimates  of the fuel consumption, back-sputtering contamination, control forces and torques, and other derived quantities are also provided.
  • IBIS incorporates algorithms and features matured throughout many years of active development.
  • Data input/output and graphical representation of results are integrated within a graphical user interface.

  • The IBIS software was conceived during an ARIADNA research Project (4000101447/10/NL/CBi) of the European Space Agency, and the joint collaboration of the Space Dynamics Group and the Electric Propulsion and Plasma Group of the Technical University of Madrid.
  • The expertise of these research groups yielded, since 2011, over a dozen scientific publications related to the Ion Beam Shepherd concept.
  • The IBIS software has been progressively extended and intensively used during the IBSIOD project supported by the European Space Agency (AO 1-7359/12/NL/AF) and LEOSWEEP FP7 project supported by the European Commission (Grant Agreement Number 607457).

  • The IBIS software in register process.
  • The Ion Beam Shepherd concept is protected by spanish patent (P201030354).
Development stage

  • Idea
  • R & D
  • Lab Prototype
  • Industrial Prototype
  • Production

Contact  IBIS

Hodei Urrutxua , Claudio Bombardelli

e: hodei.urrutxua@upm.es

w: http://sdg.aero.upm.es

UPM contact

Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Area

Centre of Support for Technological Innovation – UPM

e: innovacion.tecnologica@upm.es

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