Prince Charles has called on countries around the world to reach an “environmental stewardship agreement” for space after “making a mess on this planet”.
The 73-year-old royal spoke to engineers from private company Astroscale, which is working on new technology to capture missing satellites with the aim of removing or repairing them, and after learning of the prominent role of the United Kingdom in cleaning up space waste orbiting the planet, he called on other territories to join.
Sitting down with industry representatives and Science Minister George Freeman – who announced that the UK Space Agency would award £1.7million for 13 new space debris projects – Charles told the group: “This just happened when we’re rather making a mess of this planet, that it might be worth having an environmental stewardship agreement for space.”
Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, was among those present at the meeting and highlighted the “huge business opportunity” for companies trying to remove such items from space.
He said: “Astroscale is the world’s leading technology platform for reducing very, very damaging space debris and helping companies ensure that when their satellites die, they are removed and brought back to earth.
“There is a huge business opportunity. As the industry evolves, everyone will need to have satellite maintenance and upkeep contracts to show that they are not littering space, and I think the UK could be a world leader in setting standards and therefore the insurance market.”
It is estimated that a staggering 330 million so-called space junk – including spent rocket bodies, obsolete satellites and smaller objects – are currently orbiting Earth.
Their presence poses a threat to new satellites launched each year, which have functions such as climate change monitoring and communications.