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Combat space debris


What we do

Earth-Space Sustainability is a research initiative founded in December 2020 aimed at using social science knowledge to tackle the dual-challenge of (1) outer space sustainability and (2) attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through new space based infrastructures. In so doing, Earth-Space sustainability calls for a paradigmatic shift towards the notion of a sustainable Earth-Space relationship.


The idea of outer space sustainability has often been perceived as 'distant' to immediate challenges on Earth, such as climate emergencies. In the New Space age, the outer space environment will increasingly influence sustainability on Earth in ways beyond what most of us have realized. We are now witnessing the dawn of an era in which the sustainability of Earth and Space environments become more intertwined than ever.


Social sciences have spent decades of research on tackling Earth's sustainability challenges. Extending what we have learned so far into the space realm will better prepare us for the new kinds of challenges outer space might bring. An integrative perspective of Earth-Space Sustainability could in turn inform us on new ways of managing the vulnerable planet we live on.

Image by NASA


Earth-Space Sustainability aims to use evidence-based social science research to inform forward-looking policy scenarios. Informed by research on sustainability transitions, innovation systems, development economics, socio-ecological and Earth System governance, we use in-depth qualitative and quantitative methodologies to analyze complex Earth-Space sustainability challenges. Our research deals with upcoming challenges in the following three domains:


Developing an Earth-Space paradigm


What is beyond Anthropocentrism?

Extending planetary boundaries to outer space


Shaping a sustainable relationship


Peaceful use of outer space

Inclusive Earth-Space economy


Deploying space technologies to attain SDGs



Contributing to an emerging Earth-Space governance framework

Integrating social science research


Deriving strategic actionable policy insights

Research domain

Research on Earth-Space Sustainability

Earth-Space Sustainability currently focuses on the following areas concerning Earth-Space sustainability: peaceful use of outer space, inclusive and sustainable Earth-Space economy, and the attainment of SDGs through space based infrastructures. With that, Earth-Space Sustainability asks the following questions and seeks informed answers to help tackle these emerging challenges:

Peaceful use of outer space

How are space security challenges affecting sustainable development?

How can we move towards space disarmament?


What are the most critical challenges when it comes to space traffic management and clearing space debris?


Scenario Building

Commons in Space Scenario Building Workshops 

November 3 - 4, 2022: Led by Xiao-Shan Yap, Marco Janssen, Timiebi Aganaba, Richard Tutton

Relevant Publications

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Contouring 'earth-space sustainability' 

Yap, X.-S., & Truffer, B. (2022). Contouring 'earth-space sustainability'.Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 44, 185-193. Read more

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The emerging global socio-technical regimes for tackling space debris: A discourse network analysis

Yap, X.-S., Heiberg, J., & Truffer, B. (2023). The emerging global socio-technical regimes for tackling space debris: A discourse network analysis. Acta Astronautica. Read more

Towards earth-space governance in a multi-planetary era

Yap, X.-S. & Kim, R. E. (2023). Towards earth-space governance in a multi-planetary era. Earth System Governance, 16, 100173 Read more

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Understanding the satellite value chain

The satellite sector is booming and even more so in the coming decade. To ensure an
inclusive and sustainable use of space, we ask questions like Who own those satellites? Who built those satellites? Who launched the satellites into Earth’s orbit? Which orbit? Who have access to the satellite data?


March 2022

December 2021

Presentation at Ostrom Workshop Space Governance Working Group, Indiana University. Xiao-Shan Yap: ‘Earth-Space Sustainability’.

November 2021

Presentation at special session Technological Dimension of Arctic Governance at the North Pacific Arctic Conference, organized by Oran Young. Xiao-Shan Yap: ‘Opportunities and challenges of Space-based infrastructures for Arctic governance: a Technological Innovation System analysis’.

April 2021

December 2020

Invited presentation at Space for Women Show. Xiao-Shan Yap: ‘Earth-Space Sustainability: an environmental social science perspective’.

Looking at the Sun

Research Network

Earth-Space Sustainability is active in internationally leading scientific networks through the organization of conferences, session tracks, dialogue sessions, and seminars. The scientific networks listed below provide solid grounds for our research initiative to expand, build bridges, and advance. 

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Research Network
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We are looking for different expertise for synergistic collaborations. Together, we can be more informed.

Please reach out to us.

Join our international network

Thanks for contacting us!

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