ESA Heads Charter For Zero Space Debris By 2030

29th Jun 2023
ESA Heads Charter For Zero Space Debris By 2030

The European Space Agency (ESA) has committed to cleaning up space by backing a Zero Space Debris Charter at this year’s Paris Air Show. ESA will be joined by Airbus Defence and Space, OHB SE and Thales Alenia Space on the joint-venture to deorbit defunct space technology by 2030. 

According to an ESA press release, space debris poses a risk to the “safety and long-term sustainability of space operations” with many old, inoperational satellites still in Earth’s orbit. Therefore, ESA’s pact aims to protect satellites from a collision course with space debris, which ‘“underpin[s] our modern lives”. 

ESA, Airbus Defence and Space, OHB SE and Thales Alenia Space front the Paris Air Show to declare intentions to remove space junk by 2030. Credit: ESA

The Risk Space Debris Poses To Active Technology In Orbit

Space debris is defunct human-made objects that float around in Earth’s orbit; this includes inoperational satellites or discarded rocket stage boosters – to name a few. ESA noted that space junk poses a major threat to in-orbit technology assisting in space science, Earth observation, meteorology, climate research, telecommunication, navigation, and more.

If space debris collides with an active satellite or major constellation, ESA said space junk will continue to proliferate, “threatening our future in space.” Adding: “over time, the number and mass of these debris objects grow steadily, boosting the risk to active satellites.”   

Cleaning Up Space

ESA and their charter members have committed to cleaning up space junk by 2030, in what they coined, the ‘Zero Debris Charter’. The agreement will bridge previous: “ESA initiatives aiming to shape global consensus on space sustainability and the agency’s technical work on the technologies and solutions enabling safe and sustainable space operations.” 

Falling under ESA’s PROTECT Accelerator – the protection of space assets programme – ESA will host a series of co-development workshops to identify realistic and ambitious targets to reach by 2030. The charter is expected to be completed this year. 

Calling On More Support To Remove Threatening Space Junk

ESA are also encouraging more space organisations to jump onboard. ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, said: “We are calling upon all stakeholders from across the European space ecosystem, including new space actors, to display a strong commitment towards achieving global leadership in space debris mitigation and remediation, through the Zero Debris Charter initiative.”

ESA Joins A Long List Of Space Companies Committed To Deorbiting Space Junk

ESA’s agreement joins a long line of already established contracts, currently committed to removing space debris. ClearSpace and Arianespace recently signed a contract to start deorbiting space junk in 2026. Odin Space and D-Orbit also inked a contract to begin in-orbit space junk removal this year, and The UK Space Agency previously invested £3.9 million to fund missions that will clean up Earth’s orbit. 

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