From life cycle assessment of space systems to environmental communication and reporting

Wilson, Andrew Ross and Serrano, Sara Morales and Baker, Keith J. and Oqab, Haroon B. and Dietrich, George B. and Vasile, Massimiliano and Soares, Tiago and Innocenti, Luisa (2022) From life cycle assessment of space systems to environmental communication and reporting. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 75 (9). pp. 321-336. ISSN 0007-084X

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Within the European space sector, heightened interest in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been stimulated by an increased motivation and urgency on quantifying environmental consequences of space activities. The associated growth in the application of this method places a greater emphasis on obtaining high levels of transparency, reliability and validity of all ensuing environmental claims. As such, the purpose of this study is to present a potential pathway for effective space-specific environmental communication and reporting. The paper outlines the results of a scoping exercise designed to map the specificities of the space sector against the ISO 14025:2006 standard on environmental labels and declarations. This was based on a literature review conducted to obtain the current state of knowledge within the space industry whilst drawing upon the procedures and experiences of other sectors, with particular consideration to Product Environmental Footprint Category Rule (PEFCR) development. The findings from this activity have been used to formulate a harmonised framework for environmental communication and reporting purposes in the context of the European space sector. The framework provides a comprehensive set of voluntary operating procedures which intend to act as preliminary guidance for European industrial stakeholders and national agencies. The paper goes on to discuss potential future framework refinements and provides a list of recommendations to advance sectoral practices further. This includes a call for the establishment of an industry-specific platform to enhance the harmonisation of LCA development and ensure rigorous verification and validation of environmental claims.