Anti-Satellite Weapons: Threatening the Future of Space Activities
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Anti-Satellite Weapons: Threatening the Future of Space Activities

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The following content is sponsored by Secure World Foundation.

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What Are Anti-Satellite Weapons?

At any given moment, there are thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth for commercial, civil, strategic, and military reasons.

Due to the importance of certain satellites for national security, countries have developed anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that can be used to incapacitate or destroy satellites in orbit.

While some ASAT weapons use non-destructive means like cyberattacks or lasers to impair satellites, the destructive types often rely on high-speed physical collision to shatter satellites, creating negative repercussions for the space environment.

The above infographic from Secure World Foundation explains how destructive ASAT testing is hindering outer space and adding to the increasing space debris in Earth’s orbits.

The Impact of Destructive Anti-Satellite Weapons

When destructive ASAT weapons collide with satellites, they can create thousands to millions of pieces of debris that can orbit the Earth for decades at extremely high speeds.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the destruction of a single 10-ton satellite can generate:

  • 8 to 14 million debris pieces between 1mm and 1cm in size
  • 250,000 to 750,000 debris pieces between 1cm and 10cm
  • 5,000 to 15,000 debris pieces greater than 10cm

The debris from destructive ASAT testing adds to the 8,800 metric tons of space debris that’s already floating around in space. Since space debris can travel at speeds up to 29,000km/h (roughly 8km/s), even millimeter-sized fragments are massive threats to other objects in orbit.

In fact, the International Space Station (ISS) has conducted 29 debris avoidance maneuvers since 1999, which involve rerouting to avoid potential collisions with debris pieces.

The History and Aftermath of Destructive ASAT Tests

Historically, just four countries—Russia (formerly the USSR), China, the U.S., and India—have successfully used destructive ASAT weapons of two types:

  1. Co-orbital: Weapons that are placed into orbit and maneuver close to a target and attack it by various means, including direct collision, fragmentation, or using robotic arms.
  2. Direct-ascent: Missiles that are launched from the Earth’s surface or from air to destroy a satellite target in orbit.

Since 1968, these four countries have successfully conducted 15 destructive ASAT tests, creating thousands of pieces of tracked debris that spread across vast distances.

YearCountryWeapon typeNumber of tracked debris pieces createdSpread of debrisLifespan of debris (years on orbit)
1968USSRCo-orbital253109km-2,976km54
1970USSRCo-orbital147137km-2,629km52
1971USSRCo-orbital117152km-2,158km51
1971USSRCo-orbital28126km-1,603km3
1976USSRCo-orbital127126km-2,550km45
1978USSRCo-orbital72126km-1,898km44
1980USSRCo-orbital48122km-1,304km42
1982USSRCo-orbital62247km-1,110km40
1985🇺🇸 U.S. Direct-ascent285120km-615km19
1986🇺🇸 U.S. Co-orbital18152km-2,252km1
2007🇨🇳 China Direct-ascent3,432125km-3,364km15
2008🇺🇸 U.S. Direct-ascent174123km-803km2
2019🇷🇺 Russia Co-orbital27279km-1,121km3
2019🇮🇳 India Direct-ascent130115km-1,233km3
2021🇷🇺RussiaDirect-ascent1,402148km-1,423km0.5

*The spread of debris refers to the two altitudes at which debris pieces from the test were closest to and farthest from the Earth’s surface, known as perigee and apogee, respectively.

Between 1961 and 1982, the USSR launched a series of satellites for various missions, including the testing of its co-orbital ASAT weapons under the Istrebitel Sputnikov (meaning “destroyer of satellites”) program. As of 2022—40 to 50 years after these tests—some of their tracked debris is still orbiting the Earth.

China’s destruction of the FengYun 1C weather satellite in 2007 was by far the most-destructive ASAT test in terms of debris creation. The collision generated over 3,400 pieces of tracked debris, and was the first successful direct-ascent ASAT test since 1985.

In November 2021, Russia made the headlines for a destructive direct-ascent test responsible for around 1,400 new pieces of tracked debris, along with hundreds of thousands of smaller fragments. The consequences of the test prompted calls for a global ban on destructive ASAT testing.

It’s also important to note that debris fragments from these tests are not only orbiting the Earth but also spreading far from the altitude where these tests occurred. For example, some fragments from China’s 2007 test reached more than 3,000km beyond the Earth’s surface.

The Call to Ban Destructive Testing

The debris from deliberate satellite destruction is dangerous and uncontrollable, threatening other satellites and spacecraft. As more satellites and human spacecraft enter outer space, preventing further debris creation is critical to protecting the long-term sustainability of space activities.

Following Russia’s recent test, the U.S. was the first nation to commit not to conduct destructive ASAT tests, urging other nations to follow suit.

“These tests, to be sure, are reckless as they are irresponsible.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris

>> Secure World Foundation promotes cooperative solutions for space sustainability and the peaceful uses of outer space.

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

ESG controversies can damage a company’s value, but ESG data may be able to help manage this risk. What are other reasons for using ESG data?

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

Data is key to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) revolution. Access to granular ESG data can help boost transparency for market participants. Unfortunately, 63% of U.S. and European asset managers say a lack of quantitative data inhibits their ESG implementation.

Being clear on the potential application of this data is equally important.

  • Investors and banks can use ESG data for risk assessment, to spot opportunities, and to push companies for change.
  • Companies can publish their own ESG data, quantify progress on their ESG goals, and use data to inform decisions.
  • Policymakers can use ESG data to inform regulatory frameworks and measure policy effectiveness.

This graphic from ICE, the second in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores four primary motivations of ESG data users.

1. Right Thing

The objective: Having a positive social or environmental impact.

For investors, this can involve screening out companies that conflict with their values and selecting companies that align with their ESG objectives.

As another example, it can involve comparing the social impact of municipal bonds. One way investors can measure social impact is through scores that quantify the potential socioeconomic need of an area, using metrics like poverty and education levels. Here are the social impact scores for three actual municipal bonds issued in Florida.

StateBond IssuerSocial Impact Score
(Higher = larger potential impact)
FloridaIssuer #176.5
FloridaIssuer #266.6
FloridaIssuer #343.2

Issuer #1’s bond is projected to have a community impact that is nearly twice as high/positive as Issuer #3’s bond.

For companies, doing the right thing can include assessing their progress on ESG goals and benchmarking themselves to peers. For example, gender and racial representation is a growing area of focus.

2. Risk

The objective: Managing ESG risks, such as climate and reputational risks.

For investors, this can involve back-testing or analysis around specific risk events before they materialize. Here are the risk profiles of two actual municipal bonds in California. The shown bonds are practically identical in many ways, except their wildlife score.

 Issuer #1Issuer #2
Current Coupon Rate5.0%5.0%
Maturity DateAug 01, 2048August 01, 2048
S&P RatingAAAA
Price to Date (Call Date)Aug 01, 2027Aug 01, 2027
Price122.0122.0
Yield1.0%1.0%
Wildfire Score (Higher = more risk)3.62.7

Managing ESG risk can also involve analyzing a company’s policies and governance for weaknesses. This is important as an ESG controversy can have long-lasting effects on the valuation of a company.

In one study, companies with ESG controversies dropped more than 10% in value relative to the S&P 500. They hadn’t fully recovered a year after the incident.

3. Revenue

The objective: Targeting outperformance through ESG analysis.

Selecting companies with strong ESG data can align with long-term growth trends and may help boost performance. For heavy emitting industries, research indicates that European companies with lower emissions trade at much higher valuations. The chart below shows companies’ price-to-book ratio relative to the Stoxx 600* sector median.

 UtilitiesEnergyMaterials
Above Median Emission Intensity (Bad)1.91.12.0
Below Median Emissions Intensity (Good)2.71.92.1

*The Stoxx 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 17 countries of the European region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Energy companies with low emissions trade at a valuation nearly two times higher than energy companies with high emissions.

4. Regulation

The objective: Understanding and complying with relevant ESG regulation.

The International Sustainability Standards Board has announced a global reporting proposal aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In addition, a growing number of jurisdictions will require organizational reporting that aligns with the TCFD.

  • Brazil
  • European Union
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Not only that, a European Union regulation known as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) came into effect in 2021. It seeks greater transparency in disclosures from firms marketing investment products. Even firms located outside the EU could be impacted if they serve EU customers. In total, the market cap of these non-EU companies exposed to SFDR amounts to $3.2 trillion.

Matching ESG Data with Motivation

There will be growing demand for transparent data as ESG investing flourishes. To remain competitive, investors, policymakers, and companies need access to ESG data that meets their unique objectives.

In Part 3 of the ESG Toolkit series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at key sustainability index types.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

In a world that generates 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Here are some strategies to help guide zero waste policies.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

Many cities have set ambitious zero waste targets in the upcoming decades.

The idea is to have communities where waste generation is avoided, and products are shared, reused, or refurbished.

This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows the main strategies and hierarchy to guide zero waste policies.

What is Zero Waste?

In a world that generates approximately 2 billion tons of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Thus, countries and cities are increasing efforts to reduce or even eliminate waste when possible.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “the conservation of all resources  by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Becoming a zero waste community, however, is a complex task.

Currently, Sweden recycles 99% of locally-produced waste and is considered the best country in the world when it comes to recycling and reusing waste. However, such results only came after almost 40 years of recycling and reuse policies.

In line with this, here are seven commonly accepted steps you can use to achieve zero waste:

1. Rethink, Redesign Products

The global population consumes 110 billion tons of materials each year, but only 8.6% is reused or recycled. In a zero waste society, single-use products are avoided and products are designed with sustainable practices and materials.

2. Reduce

Consumption must be planned carefully to reduce the unnecessary use of materials. Consumers must choose products that maximize the usable lifespan and opportunities for continuous reuse. Companies must minimize the quantity and toxicity of materials used.

3. Reuse

The value of products is maintained by reusing, repairing, or refurbishing for alternative uses.

4. Recycle

Products are diverted from waste streams and recirculated into use. Resilient local markets are developed, allowing the highest and best use of materials.

5. Material Recovery

Component materials like cement, metals, or asphalt are recovered from mixed waste and collected for other applications.

In the U.S. alone, around 12 million tons of asphalt shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap are generated from roof installation each year. Currently, more than 90% of this is discarded in landfills. This material can be repurposed to create new products like liquid asphalt, fiber, and aggregate.

6. Residuals Management

Waste is biologically stabilized and sent to responsibly managed landfills.

7. Unacceptable

The production of materials that are not recoverable and can negatively impact the environment must be avoided.

Reducing our Climate Impact

Reducing, recycling, and recovering materials can be a key part of a climate change strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging.

Even though 100% zero waste may sound difficult to achieve in the near future, a zero waste approach is essential to reduce our impact on the environment.

Northstar Clean Technologies aims to become the leading recovery and reprocessing company for asphalt shingles in North America.

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