Space Debris, Space Situational Awareness and Cultural Heritage Management in Earth Orbit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, Earth orbit has become filled with human-made debris. It is widely recognised that some form of active debris removal is needed to secure ongoing access to space. The dominant paradigm for approaching space debris is Space Situational Awareness (SSA), which foregrounds the instrumental values of Earth orbit. However, numerous defunct satellites in Earth orbit have cultural significance for populations of Earth for their historic, aesthetic, scientific and social values, which are not easily accommodated within the SSA model. I argue that effective heritage management is better pursued using an environmental management framework which incorporates the intrinsic values of the space environment as a new entity created by the synergistic effects of natural and cultural activities. For heritage satellites, protection in situ is an appropriate management strategy when the collision risk is low. This paper elaborates on mechanisms and concepts, such as heritage lists, themes and offsets, necessary for ensuring that some culturally significant spacecraft survive into the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommercial and Military Uses of Outer Space
EditorsMelissa De Zwart, Stacey Henderson
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-15-8924-9
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameIssues in Space
ISSN (Print)2662-902X
ISSN (Electronic)2662-9038


  • space archaeology
  • space heritage
  • space situational awareness
  • cultural heritage management
  • space debris


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