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A call for sustainability in the new space age

A call for sustainability in the new space age


Sherry Brunswick is the CEO and founder of SB Global LLC and an international keynote speaker on technology used for the betterment of humanity.


As Earth Day 2024 dawns, humanity stands at the threshold of a momentous transition. While last year's focus was on celebrating the power of space technology to address challenges on Earth, this year my spotlight has shifted upwards to the urgent need for sustainability in space. doing. Our extraterrestrial adventures, while driven by boundless curiosity and innovation, have left an unintended legacy of an ever-growing cloud of debris that threatens the very future of space exploration.

This Earth Day, we recognize this responsibility and share how we can pave a sustainable path for generations to come, and how we can build a sustainable space ecosystem for them, based on the principles of “Reduce, Reuse, Eliminate.” Let's explore how you can apply it to secure it.

Reduce: Building sustainable space infrastructure

Minimizing debris generation is the cornerstone of a sustainable space future. Gen. David D.T. Thompson, former deputy chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, has emphasized the need to stop the orbital debris problem from worsening. He emphasized that the U.S. Space Force is exploring ways to partner with innovative companies to develop solutions and technologies to protect future space operations.

SpaceX and Blue Origin's reusable launch vehicle innovation reduces manufacturing costs by reducing the need for new rockets and minimizing the amount of debris left behind after launch. Space Forge develops reusable satellite platforms aimed at reducing the footprint of space exploration.

NASA's 2021 National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan lays the foundation for a future that minimizes debris generation and enables sustainable exploration, alongside advances in in-space manufacturing and resource utilization.

Reuse: Circular economy in space

Extending the lifespan of existing resources is critical to establishing a circular economy in space and minimizing waste and environmental impact. This approach involves making the most of existing infrastructure through several innovative technologies.

One such technology involves orbital service companies like Astroscale. Astroscale is developing vehicles designed to use specially formulated propellants to refuel communications satellites and merge with OrbitFab's fuel depots, ensuring the safety of these critical assets. Extending operational life and reducing the need for replacements and replacements. As a result, debris is generated.

Another form of reuse involves the creation of modular and upgradable satellites. The modular design facilitates the replacement of failed parts and increases the overall lifespan of the satellite. The European Space Agency's Clean Space Initiative is a prime example of this and is driving the development of such modular satellites for the future.

Additionally, the use of advanced materials with longer lifetimes and increased resistance to space debris further reduces the need for frequent replacement and the associated environmental impact. Research into radiation-resistant composites and self-healing materials is ongoing, and more sustainable solutions are expected in the future.

These reuse strategies offer significant environmental and economic benefits by reducing the need for new launches and extending the lifetime of satellites, paving the way for a more sustainable space economy.

REMOVED: A global effort to take back the skies

Growing swarms of space debris are crossing borders and posing a serious threat to the future of space exploration. This complex challenge requires a global, united response that goes beyond the capabilities of any single nation. Fortunately, collaborative efforts are underway, paving the way to a cleaner and safer space environment.

Organizations such as the World Economic Forum and the Interagency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) play an important role in fostering international cooperation. They advocate the development of harmonized guidelines and standards that ensure a uniform approach across countries and industries.

Simonetta Di Pippo, former head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), emphasized the urgency for collective action, saying: “Space debris poses clear risks.…A space economy needs a safe, secure and sustainable We are looking for a new universe.” UNOOSA welcomes working with ESA to disseminate clear and accessible public information on space debris and contribute to strengthening international cooperation on mitigation measures. ”

This spirit of cooperation is paramount to the success of aggressive debris removal efforts. Pioneering companies such as ClearSpace and Astroscale are at the forefront of developing active debris removal technology. Their efforts, coupled with international cooperation, remain the cornerstone of tackling this global challenge and a ray of hope for a cleaner, more sustainable future in space.

Our common journey towards a sustainable space future

As we celebrate Earth Day 2024, let us acknowledge an important truth: The future of space exploration is inextricably tied to the well-being of our home planet. We stand at a crossroads with the potential to leave behind a legacy of rubble-filled chaos or to pave the way for sustainable exploration for all generations to come.

The Reduce, Reuse, Eliminate framework provides a roadmap to achieving this sustainable future. By minimizing debris generation through reusable technologies, extending satellite lifetimes, and proactively removing existing debris, we can work together to lead the way to a clean and accessible space environment. You can cut it open.

This journey requires a global village. The dedicated efforts of government agencies, the private sector, and international organizations are already fostering the spirit of cooperation needed to tackle this complex challenge. Their efforts, combined with the ingenuity of pioneering entrepreneurs, provide a beacon of hope, a pulsating quasar in a galaxy of possibilities, illuminating a future where ambition and responsibility go hand in hand.

As we celebrate Earth Day, let us recommit ourselves to this common journey. Our exploration of the universe is guided by a sense of stewardship, ensuring that our heavenly efforts not only push the boundaries of human knowledge, but also protect the future of our planet and the wonders beyond. Let's guarantee. We were all in this together.

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