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The Green Toolkit for Space – enabling sustainable choices for the UK space industry

Wed 6 December 2023

Satellite over Earth

The University of Edinburgh in partnership with the Universities of Hull, Southampton, and York St John, has been awarded a grant by the UK Space Agency, to research and design an online tool which will assist stakeholders within the UK Space Sector to easily access guidance on global standards and laws concerning space sustainability. This tool will take the form of the Green Toolkit for Space.

The UK Space Agency has provided initial funding to design a toolkit to assist stakeholders within the UK Space Sector by providing accessible guidance on global standards and laws concerning space sustainability. Drs Rachael Craufurd Smith and Michael Picard of Edinburgh Law School are co-leads on the project, and are supported by Hercules Wessels, a recent graduate of the Law School. The team also draws on technical expertise of an interdisciplinary nature to assist in its development, notably through the University of Edinburgh Space and Satellites team and its industry partner Interstellar Space Technologies

The UK’s space industry is growing significantly compared to other industries in the UK and the space sector globally, and the rapid expansion of this industry and its underlying activities increases the environmental and socio-cultural footprint of the industry. The existing policy and legal landscape which seeks to regulate these impacts is fragmented and difficult to navigate. The Green Toolkit for Space (GTxS) will be an innovative online platform offering users guidance amidst this terrain by providing information which would enable sustainable manufacturing, procurement, and mission design choices across the entire lifecycle of a space activity, as informed or required by space sustainability standards and laws. 

The GTxS will help users mitigate the resource costs associated with increased regulation and sustainability concerns. It will offer a repository of applicable sustainability standards and laws relevant to sustainable design and mission choices across the entire life-cycle of space activities. Dr Craufurd Smith explains that “through the GTxS we aim to provide greater transparency on sustainable standards and laws and thereby contribute to the long-term sustainability of space activities.” 

Dr Picard further explains that “the GTxS will contribute towards a Life Cycle Analysis of space activities to help SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] understand how they might align their design choices with emerging circular economy and net-zero regulation within the UK and Scotland”. 

Since receiving the grant, the GTxS team has made substantive progress in designing a prototype, focusing on batteries and solar panels, with specific reference to rare earth minerals and dark sky interference. In June 2023, the team presented its GTxS proposal, initial research on potential user interfaces, and use cases at the “Sustainable Space: Legal & Regulatory Aspects” Summit held in Edinburgh. Stakeholders in the form of the CAA, UK SA, and SMEs all provided input on the GTxS team’s work and constructive comments were received on how GTxS could benefit the wider UK space industry. 

The GTxS team is building these suggestions into the interface and plans to trial a working demonstration in 2024, including a chat function to allow wider discussion among the space community. The team is interested in collaborating with industry and academic partners to further operationalise the GTxS, assure reliability, and expand its reach across core sustainability areas. 

If you would like to discuss further, please contact Dr Craufurd Smith at and/or Dr Picard at