Analysis of the Current State of the Concept of Sustainable Development of Space Activities

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Дата публикации:
27 декабря 2021, 00:10
Секция 08. Экономика и управление предприятиями ракетно-космической промышленности
The article analyzes the current state and trends in the development of the concept of sustainability of space activities in the world. The review of ecological (prevention of threats to the environment) and economic (use of space resources) aspects of the sustainability of space activities is carried out. The initiatives of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in the field of long-term space sustainability are considered.
Ключевые слова:
sustainable development, space activities, space sustainability, space debris
Основной текст труда

In the XXI century, the global economy demonstrates tremendous growth rates, which is facilitated by the rapid development and spread of technologies, primarily information. At the same time, the world is facing a number of serious challenges: climate change, environmental degradation and a pandemic. The response of economics to these challenges has been the development of concepts of sustainable development, low-carbon economy, closed-loop economy. In the General Assembly resolution «Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development» [1] Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 9 proclaims the importance of technological progress: «Building strong infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and innovation.» The space industry is one of the most high-tech industries, innovative solutions created for space are in demand in various industries and spheres of people's lives.

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space defines space long-term sustainability as follows: «The ability to continue to carry out space activities for an indefinite period in such a way that it ensures the achievement of the goals of equitable access to the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space and in order to meet the needs of current generations while preserving the space environment for future generations.» However, it should be noted that space sustainability also includes the impact of space activities on the environment on Earth and beyond.

The lack of sustainability of space activities would mean that both developed and developing countries could face insurmountable problems in the effective use of outer space. The intensification of activities in the field of space sustainability means preventing the transformation of negative trends into norms and ensuring access to outer space for all countries, and not just for technologically advanced ones.

One of the most significant threats is the accumulation of space debris in near-Earth space. These environmental aspects significantly complicate the achievement of economic sustainability in the field of space activities. In addition, from an economic point of view, near-Earth orbits and the electromagnetic reactor are public resources, since no entity can establish control over these resources, but at the same time the use of one object reduces the amount of resource available to others.

Currently, the need for a sustainable approach to space activities is becoming increasingly recognized in the space community, which is largely due to the risks of spacecraft colliding with space debris in orbit.

In [2], a methodology for the formation of a Space Sustainability Rating (SSR) is proposed, which includes six modules: an indicator of the risk of fragmentation of the spacecraft in orbit, an assessment of the collision prevention process, detectability, identification and tracking of the spacecraft, the level of implemented data exchange, the adoption of international standards related to measures to prevent the formation of space debris and the readiness of the spacecraft for maintenance in orbit.

In the work [3] the following elements of space stability are highlighted.

  1. Awareness of the current state of the environment.
  2. Understanding how the space debris population will grow.
  3. Understanding the potential consequences of the use of outer space.

Environmental aspects of sustainable development (prevention of threats to the environment, etc.) are reflected in the national legislation of Russia, the USA, the UK and other countries.

Special regulatory legal acts adopted in the USA and Luxembourg are devoted to the economic aspects of space activities in terms of the use of space resources [4]. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act defines a space resource as an abiotic resource in outer space, including minerals and water, and an asteroid resource as a space resource found on or inside an asteroid. This Act authorizes U.S. citizens to own, possess, transport, use and sell asteroid resources or space resources in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States. At the same time, the law does not contain specific provisions concerning the sustainability of the use of space resources. Similarly, sustainability issues are not addressed in the relevant Luxembourg law, which is based on US law.

The growing awareness of the importance of long-term space sustainability has stimulated the emergence of a number of international initiatives aimed at developing voluntary guidelines. Although these principles are not legally binding, it is recognized that they represent an important first step towards achieving an international consensus on long-term space sustainability. For example, within the framework of the initiative of the European Union, a «Draft international code of space activities» was developed, and a working group on the long-term sustainability of space activities of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was also established. In 2019, the Committee adopted voluntary non-binding guidelines on the long-term sustainability of space activities. These guidelines are intended to support the development of national and international practices and safety frameworks for the sustainable implementation of space activities. They cover the following areas.

  1. The political and regulatory framework of space activities.
  2. Safety of space operations.
  3. International cooperation, capacity-building and awareness.
  4. Scientific and technical research and development.

Thus, at present, a theoretical foundation is being created in the field of sustainability of space activities, but the introduction of the concept of sustainable development into the activities of space industry enterprises is at an early stage.

  1. Povestka dnya v oblasti ustoichivogo razvitiya do 2030 goda [The Agenda for Sustainable Development until 2030]. Ofitsial'nyi sait OON [UN official website]. Available at: (accessed December 25, 2021).
  2. Rathnasabapathy M., Wood D., Letizia F., Lemmens S., Jah M., Schiller A., Steindl R. Space Sustainability Rating: Designing a Composite Indicator to Incentivize Satellite Operators to Pursue Long-Term Sustainability of the Space Environment. IAC-20. IAF Symposium on Space Security, 2020. Available at: (accessed December 25, 2021).
  3. Lewis H., Marsh N. Deep Time Analysis of Space Debris and Space Sustainability. Proc. 8th European Conference on Space Debris, 2021. Available at: (accessed December 25, 2021).
  4. Hofmann M., Bergamasco F. Space resources activities from the perspective of sustainability: Legal aspects. Global Sustainability, 2020, vol. 3, E4. DOI: 10.1017/sus.2019.27
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