12.04.22 - A workshop at EPFL will bring together an international and interdisciplinary group of experts to find solutions to the pressing issue of space debris and safety. Taking place on May 4-5, the Low Earth Orbit Kinetic Space Safety Workshop is open to participants both in person in Lausanne and online.
There are currently over 5,400 active satellites in orbit, with over half launched since 2019 alone, and more than one million objects larger than 1 cm orbiting around Earth. This trend is increasing, with plans to launch up to 60,000 more satellites in the next decade, many of these making up large satellite constellations for telecommunication services. Each of these will increase the risk of collision in space and the potential generation of new space debris, which are non-functional objects left in orbit. This increased activity is raising concern over the safety and cost implications for future space missions.“There is a lot of concern from industry, governments and other stakeholders about the safety of space operations and the sustainability of the space environment, but specific and effective solutions are still largely elusive,” says Marie-Valentine Florin, Executive Director of the EPFL International Risk Governance Center (IRGC).
To work towards finding pragmatic solutions to this problem, IRGC and eSpace at EPFL, along with ClearSpace, LeoLabs, AXA XL, and the Secure World Foundation, are organising the LEO Kinetic Space Safety Workshop on May 4-5.
The unique, results-driven workshop will take place at the EPFL SwissTech Convention Center and online, and will bring together international experts, space practitioners, and others to debate solutions and pragmatic actions for enhancing space safety and sustainability in LEO. It will feature keynote speakers who will present the current state-of-the-art in spacecraft impact tolerance, collision avoidance, debris prevention and debris remediation, and evaluate new proposals, focusing on their benefit, cost and maturity.
Roundtable discussions will be led by Jean-Paul Kneib from eSpace, Tim Maclay from ClearSpace, Darren McKnight of LeoLabs, Chris Kunstadter from AXA XL, Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation, and others.
Panelists will represent government space agencies like ESA, NASA, UKSA, JAXA and companies including Airbus, SpaceX, Maxar, OneWeb, Amazon, and the Aerospace Corporation.
“While there are many technical options to reduce the risk of collision among existing debris and avoid creating new debris, their implementation requires cooperation between space actors,” says Florin. “This is why collaborative interdisciplinary workshops like the Kinetic Space Safety Workshop are so important.”
This workshop builds on a collaboration between IRGC and eSpace on the issue of space debris that began in 2021 and has already produced the report “Collision risk from space debris: Current status, challenges and response strategies” and the policy brief “Policy options to address collision risk from space debris”, as well as a previous expert workshop.
“It is hard to overstate the importance of sustainable thinking at a time when we’re seeing increasing traffic in orbit and a growing number of operators,” says Emmanuelle David, Executive Director of eSpace. “As the space industry undergoes this massive transformation, we must think critically about what we need to make space missions more sustainable.”