Opportunity: Environmental Impact of Satellite Communication

Announcement of Opportunity: Environmental Impact of Satellite Communications (ARTES FPE 1A.122)

Opening date: 17 February 2023 

Closing date: 14 April 2023


The last few years have seen a growing international focus on limiting the negative effects of mankind’s industrial activity on the Earth’s environment. Although (probably as a result of its relatively modest scale) the space sector has been given little consideration to date, increasing societal, governmental, and industrial attention is now being paid to the environmental impact of space activity. With the private sector emerging as the dominant source for new space missions, the role of commercial businesses in ensuring sustainable practices in the space sector is becoming ever more important. Many of the sector’s largest companies and spacecraft operators have announced a commitment to sustainable business models, both in-orbit and on the ground, but such companies must always balance sustainability goals with commercial pressures.

The European Commission’s “European Green Deal” policy initiative tacitly acknowledges the sometimes-contradictory nature of these goals when it states that “companies making ‘green claims’ should substantiate these against a standard methodology to assess their impact on the environment”. As one of the leading space applications, there is therefore a need for a clear and impartial understanding of the net impact that the satellite communication (satcom) sector has on the environment, in order to inform future policy and strategic development decisions within both government and industry.


The proposed activity seeks to assess the net impact of satcom service provision on the environment, both in terms of the direct consequences (harm) of satellite production, launch, operations, and disposal, as well as the (beneficial) effect of providing satellite services. The activity would follow a similar philosophy to that defined in the OECD document:

  • Tier 1 effects would be explored through an initial LCA exercise. The assessment would cover two representative broadband satcom systems, one operating in GEO and one in NSGO, and both capable of providing a similar level of service. This analysis will include their space, launch, ground, and user segments as well as their operations. To generate a complete overview, this investigation should also include a comparative assessment of a terrestrial system providing similar functionality. As an outcome of the LCA, the study will highlight the elements of the satcom lifecycle that have the greatest environmental impact (“hot-spots”), as well as identify the most effective and easy-to-implement actions to reduce those impacts, with the aim of providing suggestions for rapid improvement.
  • Secondly, the study should seek to identify and quantify the environmental benefits provided to society by satcom services, such as more efficient resource usage, lessened travel, etc. Given the perceived difficulty in defining such benefits, these Tier 2 effects are expected to be analysed and consolidated by performing a literature survey of the broader benefits of telecommunications to our society and extracting the proportional benefits of satcom systems. The activity should also attempt to identify the Tier 3 effects of satcom service provision, but as this assessment is expected to be highly subjective, no detailed quantification is expected at this stage.
  • Thirdly, the results from the previous two elements should be combined and analysed to create an overall assessment of the net impact or contribution that satcom makes to the natural environment. An important element of the activity would be the identification of information gaps and an assessment of the quality of the available data. This will allow the formulation of a preliminary set of recommendations to industry for their systematic collection, and potentially help define follow-on ARTES 4.0 activity.

The primary outcome of the activity would therefore be an improved appreciation of the net impact that satcom service provision has on the broader natural environment. This may be used to inform the future development of such systems and serve as an input to influence public initiatives and decision making. In addition, the study would result in a better understanding of the available data in this domain and would identify an initial group of measures applicable to satcom production and operations that would in turn result in a demonstrable improvement of the sector’s environmental footprint.

The work will involve frequent discussions with the ARTES and the CleanSpace team to define the strategy and methodology used, and schedule for producing the various items requested. Adjustments resulting from these iterations wall be considered within the technical baseline.


We are looking for experts in environmental assessments & engineering. A background in performing Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) in the space sector is key. Furthermore, Spacecraft Integrators & Operators will play a vital role in this activity. Finally, Mobile Network Operator(s) would greatly complement the expert team or consortium we are looking for to perform this endeavour.


The Invitation to Tender (ITT) is open from 17 February 2023 to 14 April 2023 for a period of 8 weeks.

Proposals can be submitted via esa-star (please find link below).
esa-star Publication.


ARTES FP is a key programme element, in the beginning of the ARTES ‘feeding chain’ that offers the possibility to acquire knowledge on future satcom market perspectives, investigate future system concepts and prepare initial ‘dossiers’ on strategic initiatives; that cannot be developed usually at every Member State’s level. It is based on the concept of a European common effort to produce quality results to set the future of SatCom.

You can find more information in the link below:

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