Nations sign ESA’s Zero Debris Charter

Twelve nations signed the Zero Debris Charter at the European Space Agency (ESA)/European Union Space Council on May 22, solidifying their commitment to the long-term sustainability of human activities in Earth’s orbit. In addition to the 12 countries, ESA also signed the Zero Debris Charter as an International Organisation.

The Zero Debris Charter is a global effort to become debris neutral in space by 2030. It was unveiled at the ESA Space Summit in Seville in November 2023.

Yesterday marks the first time that countries have subscribed at national level, demonstrating widespread acceptance of the charter. Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom have all pledged to adhere to the charter.

In addition, more than 100 organisations have already promised to sign the community-led endeavour in the coming months. The first industry and academic partners as well as NGOs are expected to sign the Zero Debris Charter at ILA Berlin Air Show on 6 June. 

ESA estimates that there are currently more than one million pieces of space debris larger than one cm in Earth’s orbit. Each of these objects is capable of causing catastrophic damage to space assets. ESA says that if quick and decisive action is not taken to improve the sustainability of space activities, the exponential growth of this debris population will pose an ever-increasing hazard to satellites and astronauts and could render some orbits entirely unusable. 

ESA’s Zero Debris approach is the agency’s large-scale revision of its internal space debris mitigation requirements to become debris-neutral by 2030. The approach will rely on debris mitigation and remediation technology developed in ESA’s Space Safety Programme. 

The Zero Debris Charter is a broader community-driven and community-building initiative for the global space community. Facilitated by ESA’s Protection of Space Assets Accelerator and collaboratively developed by more than 40 space actors, the Charter contains both high-level guiding principles and ambitious, jointly defined targets to enable the space community to achieve the goal of Zero Debris.

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