Press Release

ESA announces the Zero Debris Charter initiative supported by Airbus Defence and Space, OHB and Thales Alenia Space

The expansion of the Earth's frontiers into space also gives rise to space debris. Although the current situation has not yet reached catastrophic dimensions, space pollution is growing immensely. There is space debris circulating in various orbits, but especially with the increasing of megaconstellation population, space traffic in low-Earth orbit (LEO) is becoming critical. A continuously uncontrolled debris growth would have devastating effects worldwide, causing not only the unrecoverable loss of valuable orbits, but also the loss of space economic market. In fact, the creation of internationally applicable traffic rules in space would be the first step towards sustainable handling of the space infrastructure.

Therefore, cooperation between the political and industrial sectors is urgently needed to mitigate the current debris space situation. The need of a Zero Debris future urges and in this regard the European Space Agency (ESA), together with the most important representatives of the European space sector, has issued a joint statement:

Le Bourget, 22 June 2023. The European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space, OHB SE and Thales Alenia Space share a strong commitment to promoting the safety and long-term sustainability of space operations.

Encouraged by its Member States to implement “a Zero Debris approach for its missions; and to encourage partners and other actors to pursue similar paths”, ESA is updating its internal space debris mitigation standards. . “We are calling upon all stakeholders from across the European space ecosystem, including new space actors, to display a strong commitment towards achieving global leadership in space debris mitigation and remediation, through the Zero Debris Charter initiative,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. The Zero Debris Charter aims to bridge previous ESA initiatives aiming to shape global consensus on space sustainability and the agency’s technical work on the technologies and solutions enabling safe and sustainable space operations.

Facilitated by ESA under its PROTECT Accelerator, the Zero Debris Charter will be co-developed with all interested European space actors to promote the following message: ensuring space safety and sustainability will require all actors to work together towards ambitious and jointly defined targets, each contributing to the extent of their abilities and constraints. To this end, ESA will organise a series of co-development workshops where all interested parties will work to identify ambitious and meaningful targets to be achieved by 2030 and will develop the text of the Zero Debris Charter, aiming for completion around the end of 2023.

Airbus Defence and Space, OHB and Thales Alenia Space recognise ESA’s Zero Debris approach as a meaningful contribution towards space safety and sustainability and declare their intention to participate in the co-development of the Zero Debris Charter.

“At Airbus, we believe we have a responsibility to future generations to protect the space environment. This commitment goes beyond our interest as a commercial organisation generating revenues from space. The Zero Debris Charter is a vital step towards gaining consensus from across our industry in key areas like life extension, in-orbit servicing and above all, sustainable end-of-life management,” Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space.

“Space Debris is becoming one of the most important challenges for the increasingly important usage of Space”, says OHB board member Lutz Bertling. “With revolutionary technology and bold ideas, OHB is ready to implement a zero debris approach in our strategic portfolio. As an integral part of our vision, the fundament of our mission and embraced by our values “responsibility” and “solution orientation”, OHB is fully committed to the dawn of this zero debris space era.”

“In line with Thales Alenia Space’s Space For Life vision, I strongly believe in the crucial role of satellites for a more sustainable life on Earth. But with the growing number of satellites in orbit, we need to ensure that activities for space and in space are handled in a sustainable manner today, and for future generations” says Hervé Derrey, Thales Alenia Space CEO. “We signed in 2022 the ESA statement for a responsible space sector and our teams are proud today to take part in the definition of the Zero Debris Charter. Thales Alenia Space is also working on space vehicles to extend satellites’ lifespan in orbit, and managing space debris thanks to robotic capabilities, as well as on satellites fitted with a controlled re-entry subsystem avoiding debris generation at satellite’s end of life”.

Josef Aschbacher, Director General, ESA

Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems, Airbus Defence and Space

Lutz Bertling, Member of the Board of OHB SE, OHB Chief Strategy & Development Officer, Chief Digital Officer

Hervé Derrey, CEO, Thales Alenia Space

To join the Zero Debris Charter initiative

Quentin Verspieren, PROTECT Accelerator Coordinator, European Space Agency

Media contacts

ESA Media Relations
Bernhard von Weyhe

Airbus Defence and Space
Ralph Heinrich, Head of External Communications Space Systems at Airbus
+49 171 3049751

Martina Lilienthal, Head of Corporate Communications and Investor Relations
+49 421 2020 7200

Thales Alenia Space
Catherine des Arcis, Media Relations Manager
+33 6 78 64 63 97