The International Space Safety Foundation (ISSF) congratulates Dr. Heiner Klinkrad and the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, this year's winners of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) Space Sustainability Award. The Award, named after the late NASA space debris research pioneer Joseph P. Loftus, is granted to an individual or team who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of Space Sustainability.
"It is quite fitting that we have the opportunity now to celebrate your more than thirty years of research achievements in preserving a sustainable space," said IAASS Award Committee Chair Dr. Firooz Allahdadi in his announcement letter to Dr. Klinkrad.
Dr. Klinkrad has served as the head of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office since 2006. He has been an advocate for space debris mitigation across organizations including UNCOPUOUS, the International Astronautical Federation, and COSPAR, organizing and chairing the European Conference on Space Debris. Since 2001 he has taught the only known university-level course on space debris.
The Space Debris Office itself is a founding member of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and has been a leading research entity in debris environment modelling and forecast, in on-orbit and re-entry risk assessments, in debris mitigation and remediation, and in the development of debris-related international standards for more than twenty years.
The award will be presented at the occasion of the IAASS Conference & Awards Gala Dinner on May 22nd in Montreal. The award consists of a bronze plaque reproducing in bas-relief a pocket watch with hands on the 11th hour. It symbolizes the fast approaching deadline of the Kessler Syndrome, a scenario in which the density of space debris in low Earth orbit is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade – each collision generating space debris which increases the likelihood of further collisions, potentially rendering space missions unfeasible for many generations.
Joseph P. Loftus, who passed away in 2005, is known as the godfather of NASA's Orbital Debris Office. He was an early proponent of orbital debris research, serving as envoy to the national and international aerospace communities, working with the United Nations and many other organizations. He was part of the team that prepared the first study on space debris performed by the United Nations.