OECD’s approach to space sustainability and the economics of space debris in perspective [May/2021]
In the context of increasing space activities, addressing space debris is becoming more important. In April 2020, the OECD Space Forum provided an economic analysis of the issue of space debris by reviewing the most relevant socio-economic impacts and identifying and discussing key sustainability challenges for current and future space activities.
The use of Earth’s orbits has increased significantly in the last decade (e.g. the deployment of mega-constellations among others), and with it, the terrestrial reliance on space-based infrastructure. As a result, vulnerability to space hazards is growing at a fast pace.
At the same time, an orbital environmental crisis is looming, as the space debris population in Earth’s orbits continues to grow. The risk is that collisions between debris ultimately spin out of control, become self-generating and render orbits unusable (i.e. the Kessler Syndrome). This would have severe economic and societal impacts.
Therefore, debris mitigation measures are crucial to ensure orbital environmental stability. National and international measures already exist, however various factors affect levels of compliance with current frameworks and hence their effectiveness (e.g. lack of monitoring capacity and enforcement authority, multiple legal and technological challenges).
To address this issue, OECD is looking into practices in other policy domains for options to increase compliance and suggests possible ways forward for decision-makers.
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