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Active Space Debris Removal: Needs, Implications, and Recommendations for Today's Geopolitical Environment

Author(s): Ansdell, Megan

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Abstract: Space debris increasingly threatens the provision of satellite services that have become integrated into the operations of the global economy and U.S. military, such as GPS precision timing and navigation. While studies suggest that annually removing as few as five massive pieces of debris in critical orbits could significantly stabilize the space debris environment, countries have hesitated to develop space debris removal systems due to high costs and classic free rider problems. This paper argues that the United States should take the lead in immediately developing systems to remove space debris with the greatest potential to contribute to future collisions. Although leading by example will entail certain costs and risks, U.S. leadership in preserving the near-Earth space environment will result in not only long-term benefits for the United States, but also the fulfillment of U.S. national space policy and broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.
Publication Date: 2010
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Public and International Affairs
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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