The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a joint statement on their wish to cooperate on the challenge of space debris. The two organisations agreed to work together to increase global understanding and the consolidation of knowledge on space debris; to disseminate information on the latest research on space debris; to support the implementation of existing space debris mitigation guidelines; and to strengthen international cooperation and global awareness on space debris mitigation.
Space debris is widely defined as all non-functional, human-made objects, including fragments and elements thereof, in Earth orbit or re-entering into Earth’s atmosphere. Space debris is increasing, in parallel with the growing number of objects launched into outer space, and pose exponential risks of collision, threatening space operations and limiting the development of a secure commercial space environment.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the fragility of the space environment and the impact of space debris, which is an issue of concern to all nations. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), of which UNOOSA is Secretariat, has paid particular attention to the issue of preventing and minimizing the creation of space debris. Every year, States and organizations exchange information on their space debris research at the Committee’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. One important result of those discussions has been a set of Space Debris Mitigations Guidelines, which were endorsed by the General Assembly in 2007. In addition, a compendium of space debris mitigation standards has been compiled by UNOOSA and, at the request of States, is made publicly available through UNOOSA’s website.
UNOOSA Director, Simonetta Di Pippo, commented: “This joint statement shows that UNOOSA and ESA are aligned in our commitment to increase awareness to the challenge of space debris. I look forward to working with the entire space community, as we increase knowledge and international cooperation to mitigate the growing issue of space debris, for the benefit of all of humanity. This statement with ESA is an important stepping stone in the growing global dialogue on space debris”.
ESA Director General, Jan Woerner, commented: “In view of an already congested orbital environment and in expectation of a new era of spaceflight showing a fast-increasing deployment of new satellite constellations, this joint statement with UNOOSA underlines the importance of joining forces to efficiently address the space debris challenge. Our common understanding provides a stable ground for addressing the community of spacefarers on this critical matter in a solution-oriented way.”