Access Alert: 12 Countries sign Zero Debris Charter – pivot to space sustainability

Access Alert: 12 Countries sign Zero Debris Charter – pivot to space sustainability

On 22 May 2024, 12 countries signed the Zero Debris Charter, a landmark initiative led by the European Space Agency (ESA) to address the pressing issue of space debris. Unveiled in 2023, the Charter commits signatories to achieving debris-neutral space activities by 2030. This significant move underscores the urgent need for sustainable practices in space exploration to ensure the long-term viability of space operations and the safety of satellites and astronauts.

The Charter’s current signatories are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Their collective commitment marks the first time that nations have subscribed to such an agreement at the national level, positioning Europe as a global leader in space debris mitigation and fostering international cooperation on this critical issue. Among other items, the Charter commits signatories to achieve the following 2030 targets: maintaining space debris generation below a 1 in 1,000 probability per object, ensuring a 99% success rate in clearing low Earth orbit and geostationary orbit regions post-mission, and reducing casualty risk from re-entering objects to significantly below 1 in 10,000.

Additionally, the Charter promotes routine and transparent information sharing, active participation in global space traffic coordination, and improved access to timely and accurate data on space objects to enhance collision avoidance decision-making. It also seeks to ensure the long-term sustainability of space operations by fostering international cooperation and setting stringent guidelines for debris mitigation and remediation.​ If not addressed promptly, the exponential growth of space debris could render some orbits unusable, threatening the sustainability of space activities​.

Non-ESA Member States are also keen to integrate sustainability into their space policies. One country to watch is Singapore, which recently introduced guidelines for space-related activities that emphasise environmental responsibility and sustainability. Furthermore, over 100 organisations have already promised to sign the Charter.

Access Partnership actively supports industry and governments in aligning their operations to best practices for promoting space sustainability. If you would like to know more about space sustainability policy and how this may be applicable to your company or would like to discuss the development of policy or technology in this field, please contact Hamza Hameed at [email protected] or Lea Pavlovic at [email protected].

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