Prince Charles talks 'space waste' as part of visit to Oxfordshire

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mary Stanley

The Prince of Wales visited an Oxfordshire space company today (Monday 31 January), as it plans to launch a ground-breaking mission to clear debris orbiting the earth.

There's an estimated 36,500 pieces of debris, over 10 cm in size, orbiting the earth and creating a hazardous environment.

Each of these bits of debris pose a significant risk to spacecraft orbiting the planet, including the International Space Station and projects such as SpaceX.

Debris, such as inactive satellites, could 'crash' into active technology that we rely on in our daily lives.

The ELSA-d space mission, aims to clear up these larger pieces of debris and create a safer environment around the planet.

Prince Charles joined government and industry leaders at Harwell, to discuss the UK's efforts to tackle 'space sustainability' and prevent further space pollution.

Watch: Prince Charles is shown a scale model of the ELSA-d satellite

The Prince was also shown a demonstration of of the missions activities, which are currently taking place in earth's orbit.

He was taken to mission control, where he was shown the control tools and a half size model of the ELSA-d spacecraft, which has been designed to 'litter pick'.

The Prince of Wales has supported many causes to promote more sustainable forms of living, and believes that economic and social development will best succeed when it works in harmony, rather than in conflict, with nature.

The UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman MP, said Prince Charles' visit was a hugely significant moment to promote sustainability in space.

Watch: George Freeman MP explains the significance of a royal visit

The project is run by Astroscale, a Japanese company which has subsidiaries in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries.

Here in the UK, it is based at the Harwell Innovation Centre, making the Thames Valley a power house of technology.

Astroscale hopes to 'scale up' the technology by 2024, and make the earth's orbit a cleaner, safer place.

Watch: Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency explains the importance of clearing up 'space waste'

What is space sustainability?

The UK Space Agency describes space as being 'critical' to our way of life today and into the future.

Everything we rely on, from Satellite Navigation to the Stock Markets, relies on space.

But, just like issues such as plastic pollution that affect the earth's oceans, space is becoming increasingly congested with debris.

Data shows that, in space, the growth of debris is twice as fast as the growth of plastic pollution in our oceans, which means we have to take action now.

In the United States, NASA tracks over 27,000 pieces of debris, which are travelling at speeds in excess of 15,000 miles per hour.

It says that there are many more pieces of debris too small to be tracked, which all pose a risk to spacecraft orbiting the planet.

The UK is working to become a 'global leader' in clearing up space, with government working with the industry and academia to address the growing debris issue.

Experts say that it is more important than ever for the world to unite to keep space safe and clear for generations to come, which means we have to be sustainable.