Space Debris: a Law and Economics Analysis of the Orbital Commons


In this paper, I examine the problem of space debris using the tools of economics. The difficulties posed by space debris resemble those typically associated with public goods and common pool resources. Thus it is not surprising that a tragedy of the commons has resulted, in the form of cluttered orbits. However, given the peculiar legal arrangements that characterize space in both domestic and international law, solving this problem is not straightforward. I analyze the difficulties that both private and public actors must overcome if the space debris problem is to be solved. Although proposing a particular solution is beyond the scope of this paper, by addressing the problem from an economic perspective, I clarify the costs that must be considered in order for private and public actors to make informed decisions concerning space debris mitigation and removal.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Alexander William Salter, Space Debris: a Law and Economics Analysis of the Orbital Commons, 19┬áStanford Technology Law Review 221 (2016).
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