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U.S. Standardization Efforts Support Sustainability in Outer Space


ANSI is secretariat of ISO/TC 20, supporting international standards for space

While recent news reports underscore how litter in low Earth orbit has become a constant danger to the International Space Station, removing space debris has become an international priority and safety goal. As the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently highlighted, standardization work to help support sustainability in outer space is underway. Supporting U.S. efforts, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the secretariat of ISO Technical Committee (TC) 20, Aircraft and space vehicles, which includes Subcommittees (SC) SC 13, Space data and information transfer systems, and SC 14, Space systems and operations, which develop standards that support the latest space mission to clean up debris.

“As space is a globally shared resource, international collaboration is essential to reduce the creation of new debris that will result with the increase in traffic,” said Nick Tongson, manager of SC 14 that develops standards for space debris mitigation and director of standards at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). “ISO International Standards, therefore, play an integral role by providing guidance to organizations on how they can contribute to the space clean-up effort," he noted.

Part of the effort to clean up space is the Space Sustainability Rating (SSR), a project that is part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Mobility Platform, which aims to provide a new, innovative way of addressing the orbital challenge by encouraging responsible behavior in space through increasing the transparency of organizations’ debris mitigation efforts. The SSR will provide a score representing a mission’s sustainability as it relates to debris mitigation and alignment with international guidelines.

To support this effort, ISO standards are among the suite of international guidelines used in the industry-wide approach, which include ISO 24113, Space systems – Space debris mitigation requirements. The standard defines the primary space debris mitigation requirements applicable to all elements of unmanned systems launched into, or passing through, near-Earth space, including launch vehicle orbital stages, operating spacecraft and any objects released as part of normal operations or disposal actions.

Another standard is ISO 26900, Space data and information transfer systems – Orbit data messages. This standard specifies three standard message formats for use in transferring spacecraft orbit information between space agencies and commercial or governmental spacecraft operators.

Check out more of the international standards for space that are developed by ISO TC 20, SC 13, SC 14, Space systems and operations.

A report of a December 2020 ANSI workshop on these topics is available on <href="#space">ANSI Online.</href="#space">

Access ISO's recent article on space: The Great Space Clean Up


Originally published by ISO; adapted and republished.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


[email protected]