A new space debris grading system could keep countries from cluttering up outer space

Representation of space debrisOffice of Safety and Mission Assurance, NASA

  • The World Economic Forum has brought on teams from MIT and the European Space Agency to build a grading system for satellite launches.
  • The Space Sustainability Rating (SSR) will hold companies and government accountable for their outer space missions.
  • The central issue is the old satellites that are left behind in space well after their mission is over.
As the human race delves deeper into the far reaches of the universe, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is worried that enough isn’t being done to ensure that the process is sustainable at the Satellite 2019 Conference.

The international non-profit has roped in teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a grading system called the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR).

The objective behind SSR is to hold companies and governments accountable for their actions in outer space as the frequency of launches in increases

The Space Sustainability Rating will create an incentive for companies and governments operating satellites to take all the steps they can to reduce the creation of space debris. This will create a more equitable opportunity for new countries to participate in space with less risk of collision with older satellites.

Danielle Wood, the Benesse Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Research in Education within MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences, and jointly appointed in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics


The exact parameters of the SSR aren’t in place yet, but that’s what the teams are for — to figure out what rules and processes have to be in place in order to ensure that the SSR operates efficiently.

The endgame is to have a metric that will be able to determine how well any satellite or satellite system follows guidelines in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of space.

Why do we need a rating for missions to outer space?

Supporters of the project are envisioning that the SSR will be somewhat similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system that is used to determine the energy efficiency of buildings.

It’s not that regulations don’t already exist. For instance, debris in low earth atmosphere (LEO) is supposed to clear out within 25 years of a mission being completed.

But, according to the European Space Operation Center (ESOC), non-compliant debris in the LEO is still high. Ideally, once a satellite retires, it shouldn’t remain in orbit for years afterwards since that only adds to the problem of space debris.

In order to continue using satellites in orbit around Earth for years to come, we need to ensure that the environment around Earth is as free as possible from trash leftover from previous missions.

Danielle Wood, the Benesse Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Research in Education within MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences, and jointly appointed in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The SSR, on the other hand, will require space companies to fill out a questionnaire in order to establish the sustainability of a mission before it takes off the ground.

The rating, in turn, will be a single point of reference for the mission — increasing transparency and putting impetus on debris mitigation.

See also:
Europe is setting an example on how to clean up outer space — using a harpoon

India's test of its anti-satellite weapon may have weakened its fight against dangerous space debris

These are the countries on Earth with the most junk in space
{{}}
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.