Space debris: the Politecnico is researching the sustainability of in-orbit missions 

Professor Camilla Colombo's GREEN SPECIES project received an ERC Consolidator Grant

The Politecnico di Milano is undertaking an important project to study the sustainability of space missions. With increased activity in recent years, the issue of space debris orbiting the Earth has become increasingly pressing. This debris may pose a threat to future space missions, as well as to the environment.
The GREEN SPECIES project by professor Camilla Colombo at Politecnico di Milano, who received a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for this project, addresses these concerns.

Green Species


GREEN SPECIES, “Robust control of the space debris population to define optimal policies and an economic revenue model for sustainable development of space activities”, will develop an interdisciplinary approach for modelling space debris and predicting its progression.

A probabilistic model of space debris will be developed, in which all physical, financial and political variables will be considered. As a novel element, the project will take on the management of the debris environment through a robust controller applied to the space debris model, described as a complex dynamic system.  

Model feedback control actions will be turned into policies and guidelines, through quantitative indices, assessing both the environmental impact and the social and economic benefit of space missions through the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 


The project was selected from over 2,200 proposals received by the ERC. This is a great result for the Politecnico, given that this year only 14.4% of the projects submitted have received funding. The Politecnico di Milano has reached a total of 60 ERC grants, including 14 Consolidator Grants.

Under Horizon Europe (the European Union's funding programme for research and innovation 2021-2027), the Politecnico has, to date, achieved an extraordinary result with 126 winning projects, including 17 ERC projects, worth more than 64 million euros. Currently, the Politecnico's success rate is 20.45% compared to the rest of Europe, which is about 15%. The Politecnico is the fifth largest university in the European Union in terms of the number of funded projects (Cordis data as of 16/01/2023).

ERC Consolidator Grants are intended for researchers with at least seven years of experience after their PhD and who have a very propitious scientific career. These are scholars who aim to consolidate their independence in research, strengthen their research group and continue to develop a career in Europe. Funding can be up to €2 million per individual project for a maximum duration of five years.