International efforts to protect future space activity have been given a boost thanks to a new partnership between the UN and the UK government.
The agreement will help nations ensure that outer space remains safe and sustainable for future generations.
The increasing complexity of space missions, the emergence of large constellations of satellites and the increased risks of collision all affect the long-term sustainability of space activities. And there are currently approximately 170 million objects in orbit – mainly debris – which could collide with satellites vital to services we use every day.
In 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), of which the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is Secretariat, adopted the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities (LTS guidelines), which provide a framework to ensure the safe and sustainable use of space. The Guidelines were subsequently welcomed by the United Nations General Assembly.
Following today’s announcement, UK funding of £85,000 will support international efforts to promote space sustainability by identifying examples of the sustainable use of outer space through a series of events and outreach efforts. This project will also inform future UNOOSA capacity-building efforts to promote the future sustainability of outer space, and it will encourage all actors to implement the LTS guidelines to the fullest extent possible.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
This partnership with the UK Space Agency is the first time the UK has funded a project with UNOOSA. It will enable the UN to raise global awareness on this important issue and foster the global governance of outer space based on international law.
It is also the first project to be funded from the international element of the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme, launched in October 2020 to support collaborative projects between UK organisations and international partners.
UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said: