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UK government announces plan to drive space sustainability

The UK has just unveiled a raft of new measures to ensure the sustainable use of space in the years ahead. Already a leader of green initiatives on Earth, the nation is now looking to lead into the great beyond.

Speaking at the Space Sustainability Summit, UK science minister George Freeman has just outlined the government’s plan of action to protect the ecological integrity of space in the years ahead.

Having already established itself as a champion of green initiatives here on Earth, the UK is now hoping its new Space Sustainability Standard guidelines will have a similar effect in zero-G.

Taking on stage at the Science Museum for London’s fourth iteration of the conference, Freeman covered the central topics you’d expect: expanding space missions, debris clean-ups, addressing satellite traffic, and obviously attracting private investment.

While he didn’t go into too much detail about how each aim would be achieved, he outlined that the UK is playing a ‘leading role’ in ensuring that the UNOOSA guidelines (the UN’s framework for space sustainability) begins to come into effect globally.

He asserted that the UK is targeting any remaining barriers preventing that from happening, which is frustratingly vague and yet also fairly encouraging in the same breath.

One of the meatier assurances he made is that the ‘Wild West’ space race would not continue to go unregulated, thanks to the upcoming Plan for Space Sustainability package.

This will actively draw on the UK’s massive venture financing power to influence the global space sector.

Companies that launch ‘responsible satellite programs’ that adhere to the standards of UNOOSA will have the cost of launch licences, tech insurance, and mission prep significantly lowered. Financial benefits then – the best kind.

Also speaking on the day, Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency revealed:

‘We’re developing new missions and capabilities to improve how we track objects in orbit and accelerate technologies such as active debris removal, while setting new standards and working closely with international partners to keep space open for future generations.’

Across all of these areas, UK industry is working closely with government and the Civil Aviation Authority – that’s the national spaceflight regulator – to ensure that Britain is well equipped to burst onto the scene with an immediate, positive influence.

As of now, the UK space sector employs some 47,000 people and supports close to 200,000 jobs in the supply chain generating £7bn every year.

In a more regulated commercial space sector, these figures will only increase as the nation establishes itself in an authoritative position.

Given the exemplary reputation the UK has already garnered for transitioning to green technologies, it will be interesting to see how large a stamp it can have in the next phase of space exploration.

 

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