ISU MSS 2024

LeoLabs and SWF Lead Joint Statement on Debris Remediation

LeoLabs Low Earth Orbit visualisation. Credit LeoLabs
Credit LeoLabs

Ibadan, 15 February 2024. – LeoLabs has released a joint statement on debris remediation signed by representatives of commercial entities in collaboration with the Secure World Foundation (SWF). LeoLabs and SWF led this effort in response to the continual accumulation of massive derelict objects (e.g. spent rocket bodies, etc.) in low Earth orbit (LEO).

As of January 2024, around 29% of the total mass in LEO consists of these massive objects, 43% of which have been in orbit since the turn of the century. These objects pose the greatest debris-generating potential in LEO, putting the satellites the global economy relies on at risk.

Signatories to the joint statement agreed on two foundational observations: the debris-generating potential from the thousands of massive derelicts, primarily spent rocket stages and non-operational payloads, abandoned in low Earth orbit must be dealt with now; and, there are persistent economic, legal, and policy challenges that are still hindering the development of solutions focused on the removal of these massive objects.

The joint statement consequently underpins the first Orbital Debris Remediation Summit by LeoLabs and SWF in Queenstown, New Zealand on 20 February 2024. This event will bring together Government and space industry leaders to accelerate critical activities supporting space sustainability. In addition, those present will engage in discussions related to the various dimensions of reducing risk from massive derelicts through debris remediation.

Peter Martinez, Executive Director of Secure World Foundation, said, “For too long, remediation of massive derelict objects in LEO has been mostly an academic discussion, with no tangible actions in orbit. Someone has to take the lead to create a community of practice, and we are proud to partner with LeoLabs to bring together like-minded Government and space industry leaders who want to move from remediation discussions to remediation practice.”

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