top of page
  • Writer's pictureAngina Herrmann

Maruška Strah: “Everything we do in space is to improve life on Earth”

Our daily lives depend on things that happen in space, and we need to make sure future generations have the same opportunities. Maruška Strah’s organization, Space Sustainability Rating, helps space actors navigate regulations and design more sustainable space missions.

SSR Executive Manager Maruška Strah
SSR Executive Manager Maruška Strah

It was love at first sight. As a young international relations student, Maruška Strah stumbled upon a book chapter on international space law. Reading it, she understood how important space was for everything that happens on Earth. An internship at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs showed her the value of sustainability in space. Today, Maruška is the Executive Manager of Space Sustainability Rating (SSR), where she helps space actors plan and execute sustainable space missions.

SSR is a young association, formed in late 2022 and hosted by the technical university, EPFL, in Lausanne, Switzerland. The big names behind SSR are the World Economic Forum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the European Space Agency, BryceTech, and the University of Texas at Austin. The association offers a voluntary, neutral, and transparent rating system for missions; a bit like energy ratings for household appliances, nutritional ratings for food, or maritime shipping ratings. SSR looks at how long a satellite is planned to be kept in orbit, what the deorbiting plan is, what the disposal plan is, and many other aspects, Maruška lists.

“Space is not a wild, wild west”

Contrary to popular belief, space is not an unregulated realm. Maruška assures that there are a lot of international standards. Some of those standards are just recommendations, but many are binding and enforced by national authorities. Space traffic has rules just like road traffic!

Maruška’s association didn’t invent anything: all their ratings are based on these already existing standards. Likewise, the Space Sustainability Rating isn’t an additional regulatory burden. On the contrary, SSR can make life easier for space operators by providing a checklist for reaching compliance. This can be particularly useful for young companies looking to enter the space industry without deep pockets or a team of experienced administrators.

Sustainability is a big business, Maruška continues: every year the industry spends billions of dollars to keep outer space sustainable. If someone cuts corners in orbit, every mission is at risk. Maruška has seen companies use the rating to convince investors and secure funding. An external rating like the SSR is a great way to prove quality operations to a wide audience without revealing any detailed proprietary information.

Maruška doesn’t believe in regulation for the sake of regulation, and she’s happy to keep the Space Sustainability Rating voluntary. After all, she sees a lot of good will around her: “Nobody wakes up wanting to be unsustainable.” SSR is not a tool to find and punish wrong-doers; it’s a way to celebrate small acts of sustainability and those who are committed to improving their space missions.

Satellite orbiting a cloud-covered Earth

“Space is not just for astronauts”

Maruška’s generation grew up believing that you need to be an astronaut to have a career in the space industry. Yet space is everywhere: everything we do in the modern world is possible because of something someone has done in outer space, Maruška points out. Space has its fingerprints all over medicine, communications, transport, agriculture, water resources, weather monitoring – just to name a few examples.

Younger generations already know this, Maruška observes. She wants SSR to help the next generation come up with new ideas for using space and all our accumulated knowledge. We should create conditions and opportunities for many new people to improve lives on Earth by tapping into space – and we need to make sure the generations after them also have these opportunities.

You do have to be a bit nerdy to work in the space sector, Maruška believes. She defines ‘nerdy’ as having an abundance of curiosity: you want to look beyond what’s right in front of you, to think about something bigger than yourself. What could be nerdier than that?

This article is partially based on this podcast episode.



bottom of page