Prioritising sustainability in space activities supports Australia in meeting its international obligations and commitments regarding the peaceful use of outer space. It also supports the space sector while mitigating environmental and social impacts. 

Australia has a unique environment and culture to preserve and protect through responsible space activities. Sustainability is at the centre of First Nations culture, and space activities can draw on this expertise for their sustainable development. 

The Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018 regulates space activities conducted in Australia and by Australian nationals outside Australia. The Act is supported by the Space (Launches and Returns) (General) Rules 2019, which includes requirements such as an Environmental Plan for the construction and operation of launch facilities, and a Debris Mitigation Strategy for the launch of a space object. 

A definition on Space sustainability

The ability to maintain the conduct of space activities indefinitely into the future in a manner that realizes the objectives of equitable access to the benefits of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, in order to meet the needs of the present generations while preserving the outer space environment for future generations.

- UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) Sustainability Working Group

The three pillars of sustainability

Just like on Earth, the sustainability of space activities is built on three pillars:

  • environmental protection
  • social equity
  • economic viability.

Space Sustainability Blueprint

The Australian Space Agency is developing a Space Sustainability Blueprint to provide an overarching approach to sustainable space activities. The Blueprint aims to identify sustainability priorities based on scientific evidence, importance for our stakeholders, and opportunities for Australia.

We are working with the Australian space sector and international partners to address sustainability priorities as well as:

  • build knowledge through research projects.
  • develop tools for better design or risk assessment.
  • support the uplift of technologies reducing impacts.
  • refine regulations and processes.

A holistic approach across three regions

'Space activities, from the manufacturing of spacecraft to the end of a space mission life, influence a vast environment that can be further divided into three regions.  The possible impacts can be both environmental and social and are quite different between these regions:

On Earth

Refers to impacts on Earth or in Earth’s atmosphere. It includes environmental impacts such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, resource use, ecotoxicity and land use. Social impacts refer to disturbance of local communities and sacred land.

In Earth orbit

Mainly refers to the risk of collisions between space objects, space debris creation, and dark and quiet skies pollution. The loss of dark skies can also generate social impacts.

Beyond Earth orbit

Refers to space exploratory missions and their impact on other celestial bodies, including resource use, waste generation, and contamination. These activities occurring on other celestial bodies could also have negative cultural impacts for specific communities on Earth.

An illustration of space sustainability

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Our department recognises the First Peoples of this Nation and their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to the lands, waters, seas, skies, and communities.

We Acknowledge First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Custodians and Lore Keepers of the oldest living culture and pay respects to their Elders past and present. We extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.