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LeoLabs and Secure World Foundation Lead Joint Statement for Debris Remediation in LEO

By Abbey Weltman | February 14, 2024

Visualization of space debris

LeoLabs and Secure World Foundation (SWF) released a joint statement on Wednesday to respond to the accumulation of derelict objects in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) like spent rocket bodies. 

LeoLabs and SWF cite that as of January 2024, around 29% of the total mass in LEO consists of these massive objects, 43% of which have been in orbit since the turn of the century. This debris poses a threat to the functioning satellites in LEO.

SWF and LeoLabs agreed on two foundational observations in the statement: “The debris-generating potential from the thousands of massive derelicts, primarily spent rocket stages and non-operational payloads, abandoned in Low-Earth orbit must be dealt with now. [And] there are persistent economic, legal, and policy challenges that are still hindering the development of solutions focused on the removal of these massive objects.”

Representatives from space insurer AXA XL, Auckland University, ClearSpace, Astroscale, and KMI also signed the statement.

LeoLabs and SWF issued this joint statement ahead of co-hosting the Orbital Debris Remediation Summit in Queenstown, New Zealand on Feb. 20. This event will bring together government and space industry leaders to discuss supporting space sustainability and the deployment of remediation missions including active debris removal (ADR).

“Someone has to take the lead to create a community of practice, and we are proud to have partnered with LeoLabs to bring together like-minded government and space industry leaders who want to move from remediation discussions to remediation practice,” said Peter Martinez, SWF’s executive director.

Darren McKnight, LeoLabs senior technical fellow commented: “Everybody wins if we can retrieve remnants of decades-old space assets and allow for the next generation of missions to operate safely.”