Socioeconomic Impact Assessment of the European Space Agency’s Clean Space Initiative

Space debris and hazardous chemicals pose significant threats to the sustainability of the space industry. The vast majority of space debris are in commercially exploitable areas of space and are unable to be monitored by current surveillance systems. Debris of all sizes can cause significant damages, due to the high relative velocities involved. With over 22,000 pieces of debris from past space missions already catalogued – a number that will only continue to grow – the probability of a fatal collision in space is increasing. The risk generated by space debris to wider society should not be underestimated as space activity is an important economic and social driver.

The main objective of Clean Space is to mature technologies in a coordinated approach involving ESA, ESA Member States, system integrators and subsystem and equipment manufacturers to address space debris mitigation and remediation and other hazards across the space industry development chain. This involves measures across the entire lifecycle of a space mission, including development, launch, operation and disposal. Clean Space comprises three branches:

  • CleanSat: development of space debris mitigation technologies and design approaches to reduce the production of space debris for future missions
  • e.Deorbit (ADR/OOS): technologies development and mission to demonstrate Active Debris Removal (ADR) technologies for defunct space assets, recently reborn as on orbit servicing mission (OOS)
  • EcoDesign: development of tools and systems to evaluate the environmental impact and legislation compliance of space programmes
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