Space is a natural limited shared resource. The population of operational space objects and space debris is constantly evolving, and demands for a proactive approach to control the associated hazards and tackle the trend of a deteriorating space environment . In the recent years there has been an unprecedent growth in the use of Earth orbits.

ESA’s Zero Debris Approach is ESA’s answer to the urgent need for a leap forward in the protection of the space environment by guiding the next space system design and operation, and research activities and technology developments.

The ESA "Zero Debris" Policy and Space Debris Mitigation Standard aim at meeting and exceeding the relevant international standards on space debris mitigation and space traffic coordination, in-line with state-of-the-art technology.

The ESA Space Debris Mitigation Standard intends to improve the effectiveness of the clearance in Earth and Lunar orbits from unrecoverable debris and their propagation, so that “zero debris” are left behind by space activities.

The ESA Space Debris Mitigation Standard implies design and operational measures through to the space object end of life in order to:

  • Prevent space debris release and proliferation,
  • Control system break-up risk,
  • Control collision risk,
  • Control system failure risk,
  • Improve orbital clearance,
  • Assure safe re-entry,
  • Minimise impact on astronomy.

The Independent Safety Office (TEC-QI) is the ESA Technical Authority for Space Debris Mitigation

The main functions of the ESA Independent Safety Office are:

  • Custodianship and maintenance of the ESA Space Debris Mitigation Policy and requirements;
  • Independent supervision of the verification of compliance of the ESA 
  • Projects with the Space Debris Mitigation requirements;
  • Processing of waivers for non-compliances with the Space Debris Mitigation requirements;
  • Reporting on the status of implementation of Space Debris Mitigation policy for the ESA Projects;
  • ESA representation in IADC, ECSS, and ISO working groups on Space Debris Mitigation.

The ESA corporate policy and technical requirements on Space Debris Mitigation are focused on the minimization of the risk associated with:

  • In-orbit Space Debris Mitigation for space sustainability
  • Re-entry Safety for protection of human population on-ground

The compliance with the Space Debris Mitigation requirements involves:

  • Space System design
  • Space System operations
  • Space System disposal (including re-entry, when applicable)

ESA Space Debris Mitigation and Re-entry Safety Regulation

The European Space Agency has its own ESA Policy on Space Debris Mitigation for Agency Projects (ESA/ADMN/IPOL(2023)1) regulating the compliance of its own Projects with Space Debris Mitigation requirements.

The ESA policy defines the management process for the implementation of the technical requirements, which are provided in ESSB-ST-U-007, Issue 1 - ESA Space Debris Mitigation Requirements .

ESA has also published the handbook ESSB-HB-U-002 , issue 2, providing guidelines for the compliance verification with the space debris mitigation requirements.

ESA normative documents (policy and standards) and handbooks (guidelines) for Space Debris Mitigation and Re-entry Safety: