Right now, there are approximately 19,000 objects larger than 5 cm orbiting the earth of velocities of 17,000 mi/h. This large number of objects represents a major threat to both humans on orbit and on the ground, and to the stability of satellite communications. Ad Astra is hoping to one day use its VASIMR® engine to power a solar electric tug configured as a “space cleaner” that will be capable of removing a significant number of large debris objects in a single mission.
Ad Astra is also concerned about excessively large foreign bodies (asteroids, comets, etc) impacting the Earth and has already explored the possibilities of diverting such objects away from hypothetical collision course. Take the near miss of the 2012-DA14 asteroid, which passed within 17,000 miles of Earth, as an example of an asteroid with a mass capable of destroying a large city (e.g London). Using this mass, assuming a direct impact, and the time between detection to collision, a spacecraft using VASIMR propulsion technology would have been able to sufficiently deflect the asteroid safely away from the Earth in the same amount of time.