The Earth∞Space Sustainability Initiative is dedicated to enhancing and developing the benefits of space for all life and future generations.
The Earth∞Space Sustainability Initiative brings together industry, academia, governments, international organisations, with the finance and insurance communities to ensure that space continues to support the environmental, economic and scientific interests of current and future generations.
We stand on a watershed in history: one that marks a fundamental change in the way we interact with space. We are moving from the era of pioneering space exploration to one of intensive commercial, scientific and social utilisation. As a result, we have tied Earth and space together as never before.
The night sky is our common human heritage. When you look up at the stars, you are sharing a view that has been seen by every other sighted human who has ever lived. For most of human history, all that has been visible in this remote realm were the natural celestial objects: the stars, and the planets, the Sun and the Moon.
That changed forever in 1957. Since the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, we have also been able to see the moving dots of satellites circling our world. The services that these satellites offer, from communications and navigation, to earth monitoring and space science, now mean that our life on Earth depends on space.
The Earth∞Space Sustainability Initiative recognises the value of space, the Moon and other celestial bodies scientifically, culturally, socially and individually. It is about more than keeping satellites safe in orbit. It is about understanding and minimising a satellite’s environmental footprint throughout its life, from development to launch, operation and eventual demise.
This means that ESSI will mean different things to different groups of people depending upon their association with the night sky.
The falling cost of launch means that we are finding new and ever more exciting ways to provide services from space that enhance life on Earth. The desire for satellites is increasing as more countries become space faring nations. We must ensure that we do this in a sustainable way.
Earth and space are no longer separate realms. What happens in space inevitably influences events on Earth, and vice-versa. Space has become an extension of Earth’s environment, and a new frontier where human influence is felt. We must be the stewards of this new human environment.
The night sky is as it always was: a place of contemplation, beauty and awe. And now – almost invisibly – life on Earth depends on space. Satellite communications and navigation are locked into so much of what we do. We must recognise this new relationship with space.
The Earth∞Space Sustainability Initiative has collated the world’s current space sustainability standards and guidelines, and related finance and insurance principles and metrics. Together, they number almost 2000 documents, and comprise a large body of knowledge to be digested for any country or company contemplating a move into the space sector.
To render these documents in their most useable form, ESSI is currently in the process of developing a searchable database that will make the job of sifting through these standards much easier. This will make the relevant documents much easier to find for users with specific requirements.
ESSI will undertake its analysis of these standards, in particular to identify areas in which the existing standards are deficient. In these areas, ESSI’s sets of Space Sustainability Principles will drive discussion surrounding the establishment of formal standards, recognised internationally.
As part of its launch activities, the Earth∞Space Sustainability Initiative consulted widely to produce a Memorandum of Principles concerning sustainable space practices that companies, organisations, and policy makers could sign.
The resulting document outlines the subject areas that ESSI will develop into its sets of transparent Space Sustainability Principles of responsible behaviour for outer space activities.
ESSI is funded by the UK Space Agency.