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Satellites: Risk Assessment

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN HL156, tabled on 12 May 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government how they plan to assess the risks of any increase in the number of satellites in low-orbit, including the risks of (1) light pollution, and (2) debris.

Answered on

26 May 2021

Her Majesty’s Government are committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space and take our international responsibilities around debris mitigation very seriously. The Government is committed to regularly reviewing and assessing risks and uses a robust methodology to ensure that risks are up to date and understood.

In carrying out safety assessments under its current licensing process, the UK Space Agency considers operators’ collision avoidance and debris mitigation measures as conducted throughout the entire time the spacecraft remains in orbit around the Earth.

The Government also actively participates in a number of multi-lateral fora, including the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Subcommittees and the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), alongside a number of bodies defining safety standards. Within these forums, the Government works collaboratively with its international partners to define the best practice and associated guidelines that will ensure space is accessible for future generations.

We are also working with satellite operators, the Royal Astronomical Society, the European Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union to understand the impacts of the artificial light generated by satellites and clarify what actions could be taken to mitigate interference for the UK community and our international partners. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, alongside the UK Space Agency, will continue to support the UK science and astronomy community.