June 23. 2024. 7:56

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Twelve European countries sign up to zero debris space treaty

The European Space Agency (ESA) received the signatures of twelve countries for its Zero Debris Charter, dealing with ‘space junk’ orbiting Earth, amid mounting concerns that it is increasingly overcrowded, on Wednesday (22 May).

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom signed the charter for a debris-neutral space, during the EU’s summit with the ESA.

However, France, a country with a large space industry, has yet to commit to the agreement.

In practice this means that those countries who have signed up to the agreement, when launching a satellite, commit to bringing it back down or de-orbiting it at the end of its life, starting from 2030.

“It is the first time that countries have subscribed at the national level, boosting Europe as a leader in clean space while demonstrating international acceptance of the charter,” the ESA said in its press release.

According to the agency, more than 100 organisations have promised they will sign up “in the coming months.”

The new zero debris charter was first put to signature for EU ministers in charge of space in Sevilla, in November.

The Europeans are the first to table an international agreement to limit junk. The United Nations published a set of guidelines in 2010, but there is no binding agreement on the matter.

It remains to be seen whether the ESA’s push will also convince major actors such as China, India, Russia, and the United States.

Alongside the Europeans, they are competing for access and room, making the space above Earth ever more crowded every month.

More than one million objects larger than 1 cm are currently in orbit according to the ESA, with the number continuing to grow.

As satellites are seen as more and more essential, providing services such as internet connection, secure communication, GPS (Global Positioning System), and Earth observation, including for the military, and will soon monitor factories’ carbon emissions, and the loss of assets due to collision, can all have a massive impact on societies’ current way of life.

But how to de-orbit satellites from their initial position once they have reached the end of their lifetime, remains a question.

ESA chief Josef Aschbacher is pushing the European Commission to propose legislation so to boost the industry’s development of de-orbiting methods, something which he said already months ago.

The Space-related plans of Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, did not feature such a proposal when he presented his priorities back in January.

Read more with Euractiv

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