sustainable development vs. space debris

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5 Article 1(a)(v) The Space Millenium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, Third ... satellite inside) and ROGER on the Ariane 5 launcher.



sustainable development vs. space debris

PROPOSAL TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH THE USE OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY Terni, September 2005 Miguel Angel Frias Gabrielle Girard Kate Levy Wolfgang Mildner Yerasimos Rodotheatos

"To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit." Stephen Hawking


Executive Summary


II. Political and Social argumentation


III. Technical Description of the System


IV. Financial Issues


V. Policy and Law relevant to the project




Executive Summary

The first objective of the sd2 project is the clearing of the geostationary orbit. The secondry benefits are the development of innovative technology and the opportunity to recover resources invested in previous satellite launches. The sd2 project is a pilot project to complete one mission collecting (medium sized) ESA satellites and return them safely to earth. The target satellites for collection by the sd2 project are those near the end of their lifespan, thus avoiding difficult detection issues and adhering to the principle of prevention of environmental harm 1. The feasible launch date for the project is Spring 2011. Future Applications of the sd2 project Once the sd2 project leads to approval of the STV, this technology can be used to replace the ATV in ISS related missions.

Upon successful completion of the sd2 project, services can be

offered initially to ESA and then on a contractual basis to all space venturing entities. II.

Political and Social Argumentation (i)

Area Choice: Reasons for choosing a global system

The geostationary orbit is known to be a limited natural resource- ‘and must be used rationally, efficiently and economically…so that countries or groups of countries may have equitable access to those orbits2’. However, space debris resulting from previous space activities poses a clear and present threat to mankind’s future use of outer space. As the demand for functional satellites is increasing, the potential capacity for satellites is limited by abandoned satellites and debris from space object collisions. Space activities continue to develop, leaving the orbits increasingly more cluttered and hazardous. Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs 3. Outer space is clearly designated a province of all mankind in the United Nations space law regime4, requiring that outer space is to be used for the benefit and in the interests of all countries. Applying the principle of sustainable development to outer space, states have committed to take appropriate 1

Principles 14 and 15 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Article 44(2) ITU Constitution. 3 ‘Our Common Future’ World Commission on Environment and Development Report. 4 Article 1, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, inlcudig the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies 1967 (hereafter OST). 2


measures to limit harmful effects of space activities on the global environment in the strategy of addressing global challenges in the future5. However, in practice, these principles are not being applied to space activities in the geostationary orbit. (ii)

Advantages the Project Brings to the Area

The present method of counteracting the problem of space debris is the deposit of ‘dead’ satellites in the ‘deposit orbit’ situated above the geostationary orbit. The highest risk to current space activities arises from those satelliltes which drift in and out of this deposit orbit, oscillating across the geostationary orbit thereby creating a hazard to all space activities. Every satellite placed in the deposit orbit is at risk of falling out of this orbit and becoming such a hazard. Currently, the United States Space Command is the only institution with an up to date catalogue of such space debris. Missions without access to this database are at a much higher risk of failure due to damage. (iii)

Benefits for ESA and ESA Member States

ESA and its Member States will benefit from emptier orbital bands just as other spacefaring countries.

Space activities will be less hazardous due to a reduction in collission risks.

Space activities will become cheaper due to less fuel wasted in navigating around space debris. Insurance premiums for space activities will fall due to a safer environment. Additionally, the development of the Space Transport Vehicle (STV) will be a valuable resource for future ESA space activities. Given the phased withdrawal of US Space Shuttle services, it will be advantageous for the EC to have its own high-capacity reusable launch and return vehicle. This can also be useful for International Space Station missions. In a wider context, such technological development will push ESA ahead in the technological space race. Such technological advances are in accordance with the strategy stated in the Lisbon Agenda that the European Union should become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion6. The sd2 project also offers the possibility of re-using the satellites that have been returned to earth. Since the lifespan of a satellite can come to an end due to lack of fuel or one single 5

Article 1(a)(v) The Space Millenium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space 19-30 July 1999. 6 Lisbon Agenda 2000.


malfunction (such as radio-communicatio interference), the potential to reuse satellites or satellite parts promises to be a huge cost-saving. Secondly, technical evaluation of the satellites will show the cause of failure amongst these devices, and thus result in improved satellite construction techniques. The sd2 project offers a long-term solution to environmental and commercial crisis in the geostationary orbit which will truly benefit all of mankind. (iv)

The sd2 project Outreach and Benefits for Society

The sd2 project will bring the following benefits to society: 1.

Ensuring the preservation of a usable geostationary orbit.


An increase of employment opportunities due to the large-scale and long term nature of the project.


Decrease dependence upon US space policy, thereby cotributing to a democratic space future.

4. III.

Contributing to the goals cited in the Lisbon Agenda.

Technical Description of the System (i)

Mission Details

The sd2 project begins with the launch of the STV (in its retracted form, with a commercial satellite inside) and ROGER on the Ariane 5 launcher. Once in the correct orbital position the STV will be extended to its full capacity. ROGER shall then be instructed to deliver the commercial satellite to its planned position and then collect the target satellites and manouvre them into the STV.

Each satellite shall be coated with a hardening foam to ensure its safe

carriage back to earth. Once the STV is full and closed it shall be instructed to return to earth. During the landing manouevre the STV will be decelerated using an advanced parachuting system (APS), landing in the West Siberian Plain. The STV and its cargo shall then be returned to the appropriate ESA facility. (ii)

Technical Description of the System (development of new technologies, integration of existing technologies)


The system consists of two parts: 1.The ROGER System


The transport vehicle

(STV) ad 1. The ROGER System (Robotic Geostationary Orbit Restorer) -

By now, the task of the so-called ROGER satellite (Robotic Geostationary Orbit Restorer) is the removal of disused satellites from the geostationary ring and their transport to the so-called graveyard orbit about 400 km above the geostationary orbit. This service liable for costs can be offered to satellite operators, e.g SES/Astra with the well-known TV-satellites. The benefit for satellite operators is an extension of the operational and therefore profitable period of 12-18 months, as no fuel for the transfer to the graveyard orbit has to be allocated.


For us, it offers the possibility to grap and maneuver space objects using a satellite.

ad 2. The Space Transport Vehicle (STV) The transport vehicle shall be developed during the R&D phase of our Project. As a basis for that, we want to use the existing ATV technology. a) Design Requirements: To achieve the desired goals, the STV has to fulfill following criteria: o To bring back something from space, therefor it has to be able to survive a re-entry o It has to offer a maximum of loading capacity compared to its own lift off weight. b) Design Proposal: To fulfill the mentioned criteria, we have drafted the design of the STV as follows: The Spacecraft shall be devided into three sections: The front section, able to open so that satellites can be braught in.


The middle section which shall carry the load. To enlarge the dimensions of our spacecraft after being braught to space, it shall be constructed like a telescope, having multiple layers to allow it to be “stretched”. To secure the load for the re-entry, a layer of hardening foam shall be applied to cover the load. The rear section is supposed to bear the remote control device, Sensors, and the propellant which is used for the re-entry. In addition to that, Solar panels, able to unfold and –what is new- fold again shall provide the energy needed to run the electronic devices. IV.

Economic/Financial Issues (i)

Estimation of the overall cost of the project

1.) Table of Estimated Costs

2006 R&D 2007 R&D



€ 20.000.000

€ 20.000.000

€ 30.000.000

€ 170.000.000

2008 Building 2009 Building 2010 Building 2011 1. Launch € 10.000.000

€ 60.000.000


€ 310.000.000

This totals an average overall cost per year of 51,67 M€ In the first two years, the required investment is lower than 50 percent of this amount, ensuring that the amount of investment required rises in proportion with the proven quality of the project. 2.) Cost Explanation As we rely on existing plans and technology, we are able to hold the costs for R&D down. Nevertheless, changes to the ROGER System are required as well as the development of the ATV from a non-returnable to a multiuse spacecraft (STV) will not be feasible without funding. In the building phase, a huge industrial effort is needed. However, considering the details of our planned project, we are certainly capable of building the STV within the same budget as that of the ATV. 7

The launch with Ariane 5 has a calculated cost of 70M€. As we are planning to take another satelitte up at the same time as our STV, we are confident this will decrease the launching costs from 100M€ to the above-mentioned amount. Through launching with Arianespace we are also party in the Ariane launch insurance. (ii)

Sources of funding

ESA- for reasons of

Interest in technical development Interest in STV because of shortage of space shuttle flight capacity Interest in sustainable development

European Commission

to strenghten the position of the EU in respect of the new

competence of space activities7 (i.g. as a positive element against the US protectionist behaviour. Interest in technical development Interest in sustainable development EADS-

for reasons of their interest in development of the ATV and IPR


for reasons of an exclusive launch agreement offered to them

Roger Consortium-

for reasons of developing ROGER and IPR

Sharing the Financial Burden The overall costs shall be divided as follows: France


European Commission





Possible economic benefits of

Sharing of the overall project costs

France EU

the project


Each member of the consortium contributes due to a different interest. Therefore we also have to look at each economical benefit in the context of the different reasons why the Consortium Members participate in the project. EADS gets the possibility to improve the ATV and their competitiveness on the market. ESA gets the possibility of getting the license for a reusable version of the ATV (the STV), which equates to a saving of aproximately 150M€ per reuse, (each 7

European Commission White Paper 11 November 2003.


ATV model costs 170M€ to rebuild). Arianespace as a commercial launch provider receives a revenue of 100 M€/launch. France receives the benefits of domestic investment due to the STV production and the launch. The ROGER Consortium receive the opportunity to advance their project and to create valuable IPR. V.

Policy and Law relevant to the project


Consortium Members and Issues

Consortium Members: EADS, ROGER Consortium, Marsh Corp., Arianespace, France. In order to prevent claim related costs and to minimize the required insurance cover, the contracts establishing the consortium include a cross-waiver of liability in case of accident. It is also enshrined in our agreement, that the IPR (arising from STV development and the ROGER project) remain the property of the innovating party. Nevertheless, ESA is provided with a license to use all inventions wich are made possible through their funding. II

Launching State and Registration Issues

As the launch shall be procured by ESA and carried out by Arianespace there are a number of potential launching states including all the ESA Member States and ESA itself. It is possible for ESA to be a launching state because it has declared its acceptance of the rights and obligations provided for in the Registration Convention8. The launch site is situated in Kourou (French Guyana). Therefore if the physical launching determines the launching state, France is the launching state9. In the case of it being the state which launches or procures the launching of the space object10, the ESA Member States are jointly liable as launching states. In the case of a joint launch11, the Launching States shall jointly determine which one of them shall register the object. As the launch is carried out by a French company on French soil we consider France to be the launching state and therefore the state responsible for procuring registration.

By entering the

Consortium France has agreed to comply with all launching state registration requirments and 8

Article VII Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1975. Article 1(3)(ii) Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects 1972. 10 Article 1(3)(i) Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects 1972. 11 Article II(2) Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space 1975. 9


supply all necessary licenses for construction and launch. There is yet to be a national space legislation established in France. However, as the Consortium includes France any conflict arising from legal uncertainty shall be avoided. III

Agreement with Russian Government Concerning Landings on Russian Territory

To ensure the feasibility of the sd2 project we have negotiated an agreement in advance with the Russian government allowing us to land our space objects in a sparsely populated area of Russian territory, namely the West Siberian Lowland. This enables us to use flightpaths which minimise the maximum probable loss, thereby reducing the sd2 project’s liability insurance premium. IV

Legal Ownership of Space Objects

According to Article VIII OST ownership of space objects continues whilst the object is in outer space and is not affected by the space object’s return to earth. This shall not pose a problem for the sd2 project because we shall start by clearing those expired objects belonging to ESA. Later extension of the sd2 project will be on a contractual basis, meaning that we already have the explicit consent of the owner. This is in accordance with the UN space treaty regime- it is not possible for the sd2 project to collect any space objects of unknown ownership. V

Ground Station Agreement

The sd2 project offer of tender includes the proposal of an agreement with ESA to use European Space Operation Centre (ESOC) as a ground station to control the sd2 project mission. VI

Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development

We carry out our work in the spirit of Article 22 of the afore-mentioned declaration, and make a concrete effort to adress the challenges of sustainable development.