Thursday, July 11, 2024

NASA adopts sustainability in space operations


NASA has unveiled the first part of its Space Sustainability Strategy, a significant step in enhancing the agency’s efforts to safeguard space environments. This new strategy, announced on Tuesday, highlights NASA’s commitment to maintaining the viability of space operations for future generations. NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy emphasized the urgency of this initiative, noting the increasing congestion in space and the importance of preserving critical areas for the benefit of humanity. 

Historically, NASA has been at the forefront of developing and implementing sustainable space practices. The agency’s influence extends globally, with its best practices, analytic tools, and technologies becoming standards among space operators worldwide. The new strategy aims to unify these efforts across NASA, ensuring a focused response to the most critical sustainability challenges. As part of this strategic realignment, NASA will create a new directorial role specifically for space sustainability, coordinating activities across the entire agency. 

The strategy outlines key goals including leading global efforts in space sustainability, promoting equitable access to space, and ensuring that NASA’s operations contribute positively to sustainability in space. It addresses the complexities of modern space operations, which include the proliferation of low Earth orbit satellites and the advent of large satellite constellations, autonomous spacecraft, and commercial space ventures. These developments, while promising, pose additional challenges such as increased space traffic and debris, making the management of these issues critical. 

Related: Why Monitoring Space Weather and Space Environment is Important

The strategy was crafted with the guidance of a cross-agency advisory board and focuses on practical measures NASA can implement to enhance sustainability in Earth orbit. These measures include advancing methods to assess sustainability, finding cost-effective solutions to meet sustainability goals, encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices through new technologies and policies, and enhancing communication with the global space community. 

This comprehensive approach acknowledges the multifaceted nature of space operations, spanning from Earth orbit to cislunar space and beyond, into deep space and other celestial territories. The initial volume of the Space Sustainability Strategy specifically concentrates on Earth orbit, with subsequent volumes planned to address sustainability in the remaining domains, underscoring NASA’s holistic view of its role in stewarding outer space resources. 

Solomon Irungu
Solomon Irungu
Solomon Irungu is a Communication Expert working with Impact Africa Consulting Ltd supporting organizations across Africa in sustainability advisory. He is also the managing editor of Africa Sustainability Matters and is deeply passionate about sustainability news. He can be contacted via

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