New Study Unveils Cost-Effective Strategies

A recent NASA study sheds light on potential solutions for tackling the growing problem of orbital debris, with findings suggesting a more cost-effective approach than previously thought.

The report, titled "Cost and Benefit Analysis of Mitigating, Tracking and Remediating Orbital Debris, " was compiled by NASA's Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS). It marks the second phase of the agency's efforts to address the technical and economic uncertainties surrounding space junk.

"Our burgeoning activity in Earth's orbit has brought us a wealth of benefits, from faster communication to a deeper understanding of climate change, " said Charity Weeden, who leads the OTPS. "However, this progress has come at a cost – a more crowded space environment littered with debris. "

The new report builds upon the initial findings presented in the 2023 OTPS phase one report. This latest iteration enhances the assessment of risks posed by orbital debris, encompassing everything from large, defunct satellites to minuscule fragments. It also broadens the scope to include preventative measures to curb new debris creation alongside strategies for tracking existing junk.

"This study allows us to delve into the question of the most cost-effective ways to address the mounting issue of space debris, " explained lead author Jericho Locke, a NASA analyst. "By quantifying everything in economic terms, we can directly compare fortifying spacecraft against impacts to tracking smaller debris, or removing large pieces of junk. "

The core of the study involves simulating the projected evolution of the debris situation within the next 30 years. The research evaluates the economic viability of over ten distinct intervention methods. These range from defensive measures like shielding spacecraft to active debris removal of particularly large objects.

The findings indicate a more optimistic outlook on the economic feasibility of managing space debris. This shift stems from a more comprehensive understanding of the risks involved and the cost-effectiveness of various mitigation strategies.

By providing a clearer picture of the economic landscape, the NASA study paves the way for more informed decision-making by policymakers and space agencies around the world. This newfound knowledge is crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainability of space exploration and the continued safe operation of spacecraft in Earth's orbit.

Previous Article Next Article