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Zero Space Debris

ESA has been globally pioneering the approach to a sustainable space environment. Following earlier studies and developments, since 2009 ESA's CleanSpace initiative develops European wide technology developments, standards, concepts and missions. One of the four targets of ESA's Technology Strategy is to invert Europe’s contribution to space debris by 2030, and ESA's Zero Debris approach aims to totally stop the generation of debris in valuable orbits by 2030.   

This approach has been initiated by the Agency in response to the catastrophic degradation of the Low-Earth Orbit environment. Indeed, space debris experts have already announced that the point of no return has been reached and that the debris population will keep growing even if we would totally stop launching objects in space, although at a far reduced rate. Thus, we must promptly act to mitigate this urgent issue.

The Zero Debris approach shows the Agency’s ambition to leave our precious space environment in a clean state.

ESA has a number of ambitious activities ongoing, including the application of a new ESA Space Debris Mitigation policy, which will make the new ESA standard ESSB-U-ST-007 applicable to ESA mission not having yet completed SRR. This ambitious standard materialises the first step towards a full implementation of Zero Debris approach to ESA missions by 2030.

In parallel, to support the transition of European space sector to develop product lines to be compliant with short and long-term Zero Debris goals, technical activities are being put in place though different ESA technology programmes. They focus on the swift progress on topics such as:

  • Maturation of best practices and technical standards;
  • promote evolution of European product lines for spacecraft of different classes;
  • demonstration of safe and affordable active debris removal and in-orbit servicing;
  • improvement of operational procedures, collision avoidance and technologies to support space traffic coordination.

ESA specifically welcomes new ideas and concepts from industry and academia to achieve this objective. This cluster provides a list of Discovery element activities addressing this objective.