35Created by MRKfrom the Noun Project

Event Details

Panel Discussion 1 — Space debris removal/prevention


Wednesday, November 2, 2022


6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. CET (UTC +1)


Akhil Rao, Middlebury College, USA
Eytan Tepper
, Laval University, Canada


Majal Shiny, Christ University, India
Keiko Nomura, Oregon State University, USA
Adriana Talianova, Galileo School, Slovakia
Vikram Udyawer, Metasolis, New Zealand
Daniel Lambach, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany
Fernanda Vieira, Universidade da Força Aérea, Brazil


The pre-recorded presentations mentioned below will be available ahead of the conference and need to be watched before the panel discussion takes place.

Pre-recorded Presentations
Space Debris Removal Methods: A Review

Majal Shiny, Christ University, India

Abstract: We are living in the new age space era, where satellite applications are inevitable for every field of study, from disaster management to disease monitoring. But with the impending increase in space debris, satellites are subjected to an increased amount of debris impact risk, and their observations for varied field applications are becoming compromised. To overcome this, space agencies are actively developing various space debris removal methods, and governments are also aiding for this purpose by monitoring space debris and formulating debris mitigation guidelines for all nations. In this paper, I will present a summary of the most common space debris removal methodologies proposed by various space agencies across the globe. I will discuss their working mechanisms, targeted debris size, and preferred orbits, as well as their current feasibility if applicable.

A mathematical model of critical points in space debris density according to governance

Keiko Nomura, Oregon State University, USA
Darcy Bird , Washington State University, USA
Annika Tjuka, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany
Mathieu Baltussen, Radboud University, The Netherlands
Christopher Zosh, Binghamton University, USA
Simon Rella, Institute of Science and Technology, Austria
Dan Falk, Freelance journalist, Canada
Haily Merritt, Indiana University, United States

Abstract: Human space activity has significantly increased in the 21st century, largely influenced by private sector activities and technological advancements. People globally benefit from space-based services like navigation, communication, security, and research. However, these activities produce space debris that increases the risk of collisions with orbiting satellites and infrastructure, threatening future safety and sustainability of orbital operations. An understanding of the complex dynamics contributing to debris proliferation is important to avoiding the Kessler Syndrome, where a critical threshold of space debris in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) triggers a runaway positive feedback loop of debris collisions, making parts of Earth’s LEO unusable. Here, we take a multi-disciplinary, complex systems approach to identify these critical points of space debris density as a function of socioeconomic and physical constraints. Specifically, we model how future debris clean-up, space colonization, and collisions between extant debris influence the space debris density in LEO. We use a mathematical model to compute the danger of space activities according to debris density, then perform a dynamical analysis to identify the parameter values at which point there is no effective intervention for the increasing space debris. Based on these results, we define an effective threshold of space debris density, before which point governance actions can still reduce the amount of space debris. Interdisciplinary research into these effective thresholds can support policymakers in curating impactful governance strategies and feasible timelines for sustaining open space in LEO.

Space Debris: Will We Reach the Point of Kessler Syndrome?

Adriana Talianova, Galileo School, Slovakia

Abstract: In 1978 Donal Kessler laid out the idea of Kessler Syndrome, a phenomenon where at some point the amount of junk orbiting Earth cascades, ultimately creating more and more space debris. In the last 5 years, the debris levels in low orbit have increased by 50% which presents a great danger not only to satellites but also to future space missions and astronauts. For example, in the last 22 years, the International Space Station (ISS) had to conduct around 29 debris-avoiding maneuvers and these numbers only continue to grow. Similarly, at the moment we have 8840satellites in orbit, and any collisions will significantly increase the number of fragments floating around and therefore increase the probability of future collisions. Additionally, the dangers of a crash are going to grow even more as companies such as SpaceX, Amazon, or OneWeb plan to send tens of thousands of satellites to orbit in the upcoming years. So, even though we are still far from the catastrophic scenario Kessler predicted, in the future space debris could be a serious obstacle in humans’ space activities. For this reason, researchers worldwide are testing methods such as using nets, harpoons and many other in order to prevent space junk from ever being a serious stumbling block in space exploration.

Watchtower – a digital public good for the space commons

Vikram Udyawer, Metasolis, New Zealand

Abstract: One of the biggest issues of our time in the space industry is the proliferation of space objects in our orbital corridors with the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) leading the way. This is a result of historical conflicts in space starting from the birth of the industry in the 1950s and more recently from the rise of mega-constellations like Starlink, Kuiper, OneWeb, among others. Our objective going forward to manage space debris, sustainability and governing the global space commons requires an out-of-the-box approach. Watchtower is a digital public goods infrastructure project for these commons, building tools to enable reputation of individual space objects. Watchtower’s stacked architecture aims to incentivise improved accuracy in satellite tracking, conjunction analyses and risk scoring for possible space collision events, with the long-term intention to be globally governed in a digitally native manner, ideal for a commons located above the Kármán line. These scores, in addition to other metrics, enable reputation of space objects at an individual level thereby empowering open financial markets – space debris-based financing that categorizes owner/operators based on their space objects’ reputation. In this presentation we outline what Watchtower is, its current architecture and progress thus far, a possible governance structure and a financial product built on top of these rails.

Tackling the Space Debris Problem: A Global Commons Perspective

Daniel Lambach, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany

Abstract: This paper approaches the issue of space debris as a collective action problem in a global commons environment. Based on Elinor Ostrom’s research into commons management, the paper proposes a system of polycentric governance that is no less effective and more politically feasible than the reform of existing institutions or creations of new intergovernmental bodies or treaties. Using Paul Stern’s “adapted design principles” the paper analyzes shortcomings of the current governance structure relating to space debris and derives recommendations. The aim of these is to facilitate communication among governance nodes, empower lower-level decision-making, and build trust among stakeholders.

Space tourism: An approach to the space debris resulting from this commercial activity

Fernanda Vieira, Universidade da Força Aérea, Brazil

Abstract: The possibility of man carrying out interplanetary travel is already a reality, however, the consequences of this commercial activity can directly affect the sustainability of the external environment through the generation of space debris. Thus, this article aimed to analyze the possible socio-environmental impacts caused by space debris resulting from space tourism. Regarding methodological aspects, bibliographic, documentary, and legislation research were carried out, and the following results were found: space tourism can increase pollution in Earth’s orbits due to the increase in the population of space debris and the sustainable development of space is at risk because there are no current regulations on activities aimed at space tourism. Finally, it is concluded that it is necessary to regulate this commercial activity aimed at sustainable development to mitigate the creation of debris in the space environment.