SWF & LeoLabs Lead Joint Statement on Debris Remediation in Low Earth Orbit

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) has partnered with LeoLabs, the premier provider of data and insights for space safety, security, and sustainability, to tackle the pressing issue of orbital debris in low Earth orbit (LEO).

In a joint statement released today, SWF and LeoLabs underscored the urgent need to address the continual accumulation of massive derelict objects, such as spent rocket bodies, in LEO. As of January 2024, around 29% of the total mass in LEO consists of these massive objects, 43% of which were left in orbit since the turn of the century.

Signatories to the joint statement agreed on two foundational observations:

  1. 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 
  2. There are persistent economic, legal, and policy challenges that are still hindering the development of solutions focused on the removal of these massive objects.

The joint statement will lay the groundwork for the first Orbital Debris Remediation Summit, which will be co-hosted by LeoLabs and SWF and take place in Queenstown, New Zealand, on February 20, 2024. This summit aims to accelerate critical activities supporting space sustainability and foster discussions on reducing risk from massive derelicts through debris remediation.

Peter Martinez, SWF's Executive Director, emphasized the importance of moving from academic discussions to practical solutions in debris remediation. "For too long, remediation of massive derelict objects in LEO has been mostly an academic discussion," Martinez said. "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."

“Everybody wins if we can retrieve remnants of decades-old space assets and allow for the next generation of missions to operate safely,” said Darren McKnight, LeoLabs Senior Technical Fellow. “LeoLabs is proud to partner with the Secure World Foundation on this joint statement and summit in New Zealand tackling the challenge of orbital debris. We look forward to continuing to drive a global, data-backed conversation on space sustainability.”

SWF remains committed to promoting dialogue and collaboration in addressing the challenges of space debris, working alongside partners like LeoLabs to ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities.

Read a copy of the joint statement here.

For questions, please contact Brian Weeden.

Last updated on February 14, 2024