Improving our understanding of the environmental impacts of space activities

Since its inception, the EcoDesign branch of ESA Clean Space has been leading its field of expertise by quantifying the impacts to various environmental indicators using the ISO standardized methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The objective of EcoDesign is to reduce the environmental impacts of the space sector by developing green technologies, and applying LCA to space mission design. Increasingly, LCA has become one of the core elements of environmental policy around the world. The two main ISO standards covering LCA are ISO 14040 and ISO 14044, outlining its principles, framework, requirements, and guidelines. However, special adaptations were required to apply this methodology to space. ESA has pioneered the analysis and reduction of environmental impacts within the space sector, and this methodology was captured in an ESA LCA Handbook, which was published in 2017. Dedicated studies were also performed which resulted in space-specific LCA datasets which were compiled in an ESA LCA Database (DB). This allowed ESA to identify some preliminary environmental impacts in terms of various environmental indicators. In the past years, ESA has also included environmental requirements in projects such as Copernicus, Ariane 6, and Galileo. This framework aims to guide and enable the European space industry in applying LCA to their projects. The LCA DB and handbook are constantly being updated and improved, with several on-going studies attempting to quantify the impacts of spacecraft, launchers, propellants, space debris, and more.


Life Cycle Assessment
Analysis & Framework
Deloitte Sustainablility Vito