LOS ANGELES – The UK Space Agency has a direct message on space sustainability.
“We’re going to stop making it worse. And we’re going to start making it better,” Julie Black, UK Space Agency director of missions and capability for discovery and sustainability, said June 13 at the Secure World Foundation’s Space Sustainability Summit.
Toward that goal, the UK Space Agency is continuing to encourage and prioritize space sustainability, both domestically and internationally.
“A cross-agency space sustainability program is designed to mitigate the risks caused by space debris and promote the responsible use of space through a combination of regulation, standards development technology development, and national and international missions,” Black said.
Active Debris Removal
For example, the UK divisions of Japan-based Astroscale and Switzerland-based ClearSpace are conducting design studies for a UK mission in 2026 to deorbit a piece of UK space debris.
“Crucially, at the end of that mission, the service that will be refuelable and will be ready to be used again,” Black said.
In 2028 the UK plans to send a satellite to repair, replenish or refuel a UK spacecraft. And by the end of the decade, the UK intends “to have developed orbital assembly or manufacturing, where we’re using the spacecraft previously launched to remove debris or perform the servicing mission,” Black said.
Investing in companies working to address space sustainability through innovation is a UK Space Agency priority, Black said.
Space Surveillance and Tracking
For the first time, the UK is establishing a space surveillance and tracking service for UK-licensed satellite operators. The service will warn operators of potential collisions so they can maneuver as necessary.
International partnerships with the European Space Agency and global organizations will help the UK achieve its space sustainability goals, Black said.
The UK intends to “be a thought leader by championing change, but we just can’t do that alone,” Black said. “We’re here to work together as sustainability champions to take collective action now, to mitigate the effects reduce the burden on future generations and ultimately, to ensure the safe and responsible use of space.”