Title

An Economic Analysis of Earth Orbit Pollution

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-19-2014

Publication Source

Environmental and Resource Economics

Volume

60

Issue

1

Inclusive pages

81-98

DOI

10.1007/s10640-013-9758-4

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

Space debris, an externality generated by expended launch vehicles and damaged satellites, reduces the expected value of space activities by increasing the probability of damaging existing satellites or other space vehicles. Unlike terrestrial pollution, debris created in the production process interacts with firms’ final products, and is, moreover, self-propagating: collisions between debris or extant satellites creates additional debris. We construct a formal model to explore private incentives to launch satellites and to mitigate space debris. The model predicts that, relative to the social optimum, firms launch too many satellites and choose technologies which create more debris than is socially optimal. We discuss remediation strategies and policies, and demonstrate that Pigovian taxes can be used to internalize the debris externality.

Keywords

Orbital debris, Economics of space, Space pollution

Disciplines

Economics

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