LEADING THE PATH TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE
Our mission is to encourage space actors to design and implement sustainable space missions & operations to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the space environment
Space infrastructure & services are essential to
life on earth
Satellites provide crucial services such as weather forecasting, climate and natural resources monitoring, global positioning, and communications.
The sustainability of the space environment is vital to maintain and develop scientific and commercial use of space in the future.
A growing number of objects
launched in already congested orbits
The transformation of the global space economy due to declining costs, and the proliferation of related technology, has led to surge in satellite launches. Thousands of spacecraft are expected to be launched in the coming years by the commercial sector alone, adding to approximately 5400 already active satellites in orbit.
These trends inevitably increase the risk of collisions and spur debates on the safe and sustainable use of vital near-Earth orbits.
Quantify, measure and verify
international guidelines pose significant challenges
Existing international guidelines steer space actors’ activities in our globally shared orbital environment. However, the fundamental shifts in space traffic will affect their potential to curtail the proliferation of new debris in the coming years.
Sustainability assessment without disclosing confidential mission data and proprietary information
Actionable guidance to improve the mission’s sustainability level
A forward-thinking group of leading organisations to drive sustainability in outer space
Space operators demonstrating a strong sustainability performance through the assessment process are awarded a recognised “bronze”, “silver”, “gold” or “platinum” rating badge. This will aim to serve in the future as an independent certification which can be shared publicly, increasing transparency on debris mitigation efforts.
The SSR is an initiative hosted by eSpace - EPFL Space Center seeking to foster voluntary and bold action by satellite operators to reduce the risk of space debris, on-orbit collisions, and unsustainable space operations.
It provides an incentive for satellite operators to design and implement sustainable missions design and operations in outer space, through an innovative and inclusive approach consisting of:
The rating system is the result of a five-year development process initiated in 2016 by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council (GFC) on Space Technologies, and the metrics used are widely recognized by scientific communities, regulators, and industry as efficient space sustainability assessment criteria.
Space debris pose significant challenges to the safety of current and future operations in space. In 2022, around 5400 active satellites are sharing orbits around Earth with more than one million objects larger than 1cm - increasing the risk of collisions and the loss or disruption of space-based infrastructure. As thousands of spacecrafts are planned to be launched in the coming decade, and without internationally binding guidelines, implementing tools to incentivize space actors and foster responsible behaviour will be key to ensure long-term sustainability of the space environment.
The SSR offers an innovative and practical solution to addressing the orbital challenge by rewarding sustainable design and responsible behaviour, as well as increasing the transparency of organisations’ debris mitigation efforts.
It evaluates the implementation and efficiency of collision avoidance and post-mission disposal strategies, assesses the ability to detect and track a spacecraft, promotes compliance to existing space debris mitigation guidelines and rewards operators sharing data contributing to space situational awareness.
Operators going through a rating will be evaluated but will also benefit from the support of the SSR team to identify the actions that can be taken in order to increase the mission’s sustainability.
The Space Sustainability Rating is a non-profit association recognized by EPFL and hosted within eSpace – EPFL Space Center. The rating system is independent, neutral and transparent: its methodology is available online and the team is available to address any question which may arise.
The rating methodology was developed by a multi-disciplinary consortium composed of BryceTech, the Space Enabled research group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the European Space Agency Space debris office and the University of Texas at Austin and the World Economic Forum.
The development process of the rating methodology spans two years (between 2019 to 2021) and was also supported by satellite operators through alpha and beta testing phases to ensure its robustness and relevancy.
Read More about the SSR’s origin:
The rating process is managed by the SSR team within eSpace who is responsible for gathering the inputs, giving guidance on the completion of a rating, and providing results and recommendations to the operators.
The final score resulting from the assessment is computed from the evaluation of six individual modules and from the verification level of the information provided to the SSR issuer. The score is jointly computed by eSpace, MIT (Detectability, Identification and Trackability module), and ESA (Mission index module).
The SSR also draws from the principles outlined in the UN Guidelines and considers specific decisions about design, operations and post mission disposal that reduce risk of collisions, shorten orbital time for debris and increase space situational awareness.
The rating methodology is detailed on The Rating webpage.
The SSR provides an assessment of the sustainability level of a space mission. A mission is defined as a functional unit of spacecraft, launch vehicle, and mission related objects aimed at providing a specific service, by means of design and operations, for which they need to access and use part of the space environment.
A mission can consist of a single satellite, a satellite and a launch vehicle, or combinations of these elements. The rating is computed considering the contribution from all the objects.
Satellite operators can engage with the SSR by taking an annual subscription comprising up to 10 ratings. Each rating pertains to one mission but can be recomputed in case parameters change or if recommendations from the initial rating report are implemented. The yearly subscription allows operators to benefit from the support of the SSR team throughout the year in order to better understand how to improve their mission sustainability.
A flat fee applies for the rating subscription and will remain valid for 12 months from the subscription date. In order to enable academic projects and startups with limited financial resources to apply for a rating, a special discount on the subscription fee is offered to these entities.
In addition, any organisation can join the SSR as an association member to get involved in the work of the SSR, provide input on the rating system, and support communications and policy efforts.
The SSR is designed as a guiding instrument for space operators in their sustainability journey. It is a unique tool providing an accurate assessment of the current sustainability performance, and helping to identify where improvements can be made along the way - contributing to establishing best practices for the space sector. By voluntarily taking part in the rating, spacecraft operators, launch service providers and satellite manufacturers will share a single point of reference externally describing their mission’s level of sustainability.
The Space Sustainability Rating can be applied to any type of mission, at any mission phase. The rating however only remains valid for a given mission phase, as significant changes can occur from a mission phase to another. As the SSR issuer needs to be able to certify that a mission complies to the SSR criteria, the rating is only valid for subscribed operators. On demand re-evaluation of the rating can be requested at any time if recommendations are implemented in the mission.
There are three ways to support SSR’s activities:
All space actors are welcomed to join the SSR and constribute to the space sustainability discussion, through two different levels of participation.
Stellar and the Nihon University, Japan have joined the SSR as founding members, and the Secure World Foundation as an association member. To learn more about opportunities for involvement in the SSR, please contact the team.