How do you monitor and evaluate the environmental impacts of space projects ?
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a structured, internationally standardised method and management tool (ISO 14040 and 14044) to evaluate the environmental impact of industrial activities. LCA has been used by industry for over 30 years for quantifying resource consumption and environmental impacts associated with goods and services throughout the entire life cycle, from resource mining to disposal/recycling.
ESA has been a pioneer in applying the LCA methodology in the space sector, starting in 2009 with a preliminary CDF study called ECOSAT. Later, a complete LCA of the current European family of launchers was carried out, with the involvement of most of the main industrial firms in the European launchers production chain. This endeavour is being expanded to encompass the whole life-cycle of a space mission, through a GSP activity started in January 2012, to which European primes are actively contributing to data collection. In parallel, LCA is being gradually tested in design studies with the aim of adapting this framework for use in the design process.
These recent efforts have placed ESA at the forefront of the development of environmental impact assessment methods for space projects. However, a lot of work is still required to adapt these methods to take into account the specific characteristics of space materials and processes. The goal is to establish a common eco-design framework that will be available to European space agencies and industry. This framework will include dedicated databases and tools for space activity LCA and enable assessing the risk of supply chain disruptions due to environmental legislation as from the early phases of the design.
Last update: 25 July 2013