The University of Colorado Boulder and the Secure World Foundation today announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the Space and Sustainability Initiative (SSI). As the first program in the nation to focus on the role of the private sector and entrepreneurship in the sustainable commercialization of space activities, the Space and Sustainability Initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder will orient much of its work toward the development of norms of responsible behavior for commercial space activities.
With projected revenues of up to $1.1 trillion by 2040, the global space industry is set to grow faster and larger than at any period in human history. At the same time, this growth does not come without an increase in potential consequences or costs. With every launch, satellite congestion increases and debris accumulates in all realms of near-Earth space. This presents a clear threat to current and future space operations and is particularly relevant for private sector ventures that depend on the safety and security of on-orbit assets.
The partnership will act on several key pillars:
- Norms of behavior. The long-term viability of commercial space operations will be closely tied to the decisions that aerospace companies are making today. By identifying and cataloging the activities and behaviors that can affirmatively grow the commercial space market, SSI — along with its external advisory board and Colorado’s aerospace leaders — will develop norms of behavior for the peaceful, safe and responsible commercialization of space activities.
- Promoting sustainability. The growth in commercial space activities has brought greater urgency in addressing a growing number of risk factors impeding operations in space, including congestion from satellites and spacecraft, radio frequency interference and the proliferation of space debris. SSI will explore and promote the actions that can ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities in an equitable manner.
- Space debris. Orbital debris exists in all orbital regions around the Earth, and the European Space Agency estimates that there are now nearly 1 million pieces of debris measuring between 1 and 10 centimeters threatening satellites and spacecraft alike. SSI will research the types and impacts of orbital space debris, as well as how companies and governments will need to contend with — and not contribute to — the growing threat of space junk.
- Support to entrepreneurs. A unique collaboration between the Leeds School of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), SSI will equip tomorrow’s leaders with commercial space industry market analyses and business models. In the near future, SSI will introduce an executive education curriculum for aerospace entrepreneurs.
“The projected growth in the commercial space market creates enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs and engineers — and the explorer in each of us — and the Space and Sustainability Initiative is affirmatively designed to ensure those opportunities exist for future generations,” said Dr. Mark Meaney, principal investigator of the Space and Sustainability Initiative. “We are grateful to the generous and visionary support of the Secure World Foundation for making SSI one of the first university-based programs in the country to work on this timely issue.”
“Ensuring global stability here on Earth and meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will increasingly depend on the secure, sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space,” said Dr. Peter Martinez, Executive Director of the Secure World Foundation. “We believe this collaboration can meaningfully support the peaceful exploration and sustainable uses of outer space for the benefit of all nations, now and in the future.” C
CU Boulder is located in the second-largest aerospace economy area in the country. The Space and Sustainability Initiative combines the business, entrepreneurial and social responsibility expertise of the CU Leeds School of Business with the aerospace and policy expertise at the Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), along with legal, human resources, information technologies and social impact expertise.
The Space and Sustainability Initiative at the University of Colorado Boulder is the first program in the nation to focus on the role of the private sector and entrepreneurship in the sustainable commercialization of space activities. SSI combines the expertise of the CU Leeds School of Business with the aerospace and policy expertise at the Ann & H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).
Secure World Foundation envisions the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space contributing to global stability and benefits on Earth. The foundation works with governments, industry, international organizations, and civil society to develop and promote ideas and actions to achieve the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space benefiting Earth and all its peoples.