Ecodesign for space and aerospace: what happens when we make ecodesign relevant for demanding applications?

The European Space Agency (ESA) seeks to implement ecodesign in concurrent design for future space missions, as part of its Clean Space initiative. Ecodesign and quantitative environmental scores from life-cycle assessment (LCA) are acknowledged elements in cleaner production. This paper describes the challenges when adapting ecodesign to space systems. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) provides environmental information over the life of products. It supplies the indicators for environmental decision-making in the design process, and covers materials extraction, manufacturing, use and end-of-life treatment. LCA is primarily concerned with environmental effects of technology on terrestrial systems, by emissions and use of resources. Impacts in LCA and ecodesign include human health, ecosystem damages and resource depletion [1]. Practices and tools for ecodesign are devised for mass production systems. Technologies for space, aerospace or other demanding applications differ from the traditional large volume productions in many ways. They require advanced materials, specialized manufacturing processes and small production volumes. Testing and functional requirements are also different when producing for space and aerospace. These factors have some significant implications for the LCA studies that are used to support ecodesign practices. • Technologies for advanced applications are earlier in development. Literature concerning their environmental properties is immature or non-existent – implying few or no LCA studies for the materials or processes involved. This presents a tough starting point for ecodesign. • Ecodesign for space and aerospace combines a wide list of manufacture processes and materials, many of which are traditional and some are less developed. The consequence is that an ecodesign database for high-end manufacturing most probably is incomplete due to gaps for novel technologies and specialized materials, or becomes inconsistent in an effort to cover also the less matured technologies. An adaption of ecodesign to space applications require expanding the library of processes beyond large volume production – while at the same time maintaining a certain internal consistency. • Most all ecodesign tools have been developed for commercial production systems, generally for large volume products. The specialized manufacturing processes and advanced materials used for demanding applications render any traditional ecodesign tool irrelevant. It is a significant challenge to ensure that information used in the ecodesign process is space relevant. What is advanced today is general tomorrow. Ecodesign and life cycle assessment for advanced technologies ensure that we develop high-end manufacturing for a better production industry in the future. Based on an ongoing ESA study on LCA for manufacturing and space materials, we present results for a selection of advanced manufacturing processes and materials, and discuss the challenges involved in developing LCA for demanding applications, in an attempt to answer: what happens when we make ecodesign space-relevant? Ecodesign information for advanced technologies. We discuss here two examples of applying LCA to space relevant technology. The final paper will cover additional issues, such as composite materials, additive layer manufacturing, electronic components (ICT and harnesses), batteries, single process and system manufacturing for space. Space relevant technology – the case for solar As environmental technologies, solar energy and photovoltaics are popular issues for ecodesign and LCA. However, space relevant PV is very different from what is installed on a building [2,3], and the literature on for PV for space application is non-existent. The best source is a study that concerns a space-relevant GaAS PV [4], though for a land-based installation and from 2006. Taking into account the rapid development in PV technology, and general efficiency gains in manufacturing and materials science since then, we may conclude that the relevant LCA literature is very scarce. Any evaluation of PV in ecodesign for space therefore requires covering new fields in LCA. Further insights from this process are shared in the full paper. Technology completeness and consistency – the case for manufacture Manufacturing processes are a large field. Databases exist that include a variety of manufacturing processes, most notably the commercially available Ecoinvent database, However, all available databases for ecodesign have in common that they are compiled from a multitude of sources, each originating from various time periods, geographies and levels of technological maturity. Attempts have been made to remediate this (e.g., [5]), but challenges with internal consistency are a returning issue when complementing updated ecodesign data for specific technologies with other, perhaps older and possibly simpler, data points in order to gain coverage. Inconsistencies cause bias in comparison between production routes and may carry significant repercussions when applied to larger systems, like solar for space. Manufacturing and surface treatment are important issues in ecodesign for space.