Confronting Space Debris

Confronting Space Debris: Strategies and Warnings from Comparable Examples Including Deepwater Horizon

Dave Baiocchi
William Welser IV
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 156
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  • Book Info
    Confronting Space Debris
    Book Description:

    Orbital space debris represents a growing threat to the operation of man-made systems in space. With the goal of guiding future mitigation or remediation efforts, this monograph examines nine comparable problems that share similarities with orbital debris: acid rain, U.S. commercial airline security, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons, hazardous waste, oil spills, radon, email spam, and U.S. border control.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5190-5
    Subjects: Technology, Physics, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: The Problem of Orbital Debris
    (pp. 1-4)

    Orbital (space) debris represents a growing threat to the operation of man-made objects in space.¹ According to Nick Johnson, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) chief scientist for orbital debris, “[T]he current orbital debris environment poses a real, albeit low level, threat to the operation of spacecraft” in both low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous orbit (GEO) (Johnson, 2010). This risk poses a threat to the United States’ ability to access and use the space environment. For example, on the most recent Hubble Space Telescope repair mission in May 2009, NASA estimated that astronauts faced a 1-in-89 chance of...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Methodology
    (pp. 5-8)

    We began by examining how perspectives from environmental law, insurance regulation, international relations, policing strategies, and deterrence theory could inform the space debris community from broader, nontechnical perspectives. During discussions with experts with remediation experience from outside the aerospace industry, we examined how technology demonstrations affected the deployment of remediation efforts in these other industries. Furthermore, we investigated key legal, economic, regulatory, and policy concerns that should be considered when evaluating the feasibility of testing technology aimed at reducing orbital debris.

    In these discussions, we realized that orbital debris belonged to a group of problems that share a similar set...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Comparable Problems and Identifying Characteristics
    (pp. 9-12)

    The good news about orbital debris is that it is not a unique problem. Several industries have faced analogous challenges over the past century and dealt with them successfully.

    We identified the following nine comparable examples for use in this analysis: acid rain, airline security, asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hazardous waste, oil spills, radon, spam, and U.S. border control.¹ We assume that the reader has a general familiarity with each of these topics, and this level of knowledge will be sufficient to understand the concepts presented in this monograph. In addition, Appendix A contains a table that briefly describes each of...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Nomenclature
    (pp. 13-14)

    Since we will use the termsmitigationandremediationthroughout this document, it is critical to define their meanings and distinguish between them before proceeding with the analysis.

    Mitigationrefers to a class of actions designed to lessen the pain or reduce the severity of something. Standards, rules, and regulations are common examples of mitigating actions: They do not stop unwanted behavior or completely eliminate undesirable outcomes, but they can reduce the frequency or severity of bad events.

    Mitigation measures are aimed at preventing a problem from getting worse. Because of this, an effective mitigation strategy needs to be comprehensive,...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE A Framework for Addressing Orbital Debris and the Comparable Problems
    (pp. 15-22)

    Orbital debris, as well as all of the comparable problems, is best addressed using a series of increasingly aggressive measures designed to discourage the accidental or intentional creation of debris. This chapter outlines a framework that we developed to describe this step-by-step approach.

    The framework, shown in Figure 5.1, is represented by a series of concentric rings, where actions become more aggressive as they move toward the center of the diagram. This concentric geometry highlights an important feature of the approach: As the community moves toward the center (and increasingly aggressive deterrents), the size of the debris-generating population decreases with...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Analysis: Comparing the Timeline of Orbital Debris with the Timelines of the Comparable Problems
    (pp. 23-26)

    In the previous chapter, we used a notional example of chemical spills to describe the conditions under which a fleet manager would move from relying on behavioral norms to implementing mitigation actions. In this chapter, we present a series of timelines that depict how orbital debris and the nine comparable problems have progressed through the stages of identification, establishing behavioral norms, mitigation, and remediation.

    As we mentioned at the beginning of Chapter Three, we are using the following nine comparable problems for this analysis: acid rain, airline security, asbestos, CFCs, hazardous waste, oil spills, radon, spam, and U.S. border control....

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Mitigation Strategies and Their Use in Other Communities
    (pp. 27-44)

    This chapter examines the concepts of mitigation in more detail. After reviewing our definition of mitigation, we introduce a set of tools that can be used to identify and describe the stakeholders. This is an important first step because a mitigation strategy will only be effective if it considers the interests and needs of everyone involved.

    After describing the stakeholders, we introduce three approaches to mitigation that were originally developed within the context of the environmental protection industry. However, these approaches are general enough that they can be applied to any of the comparable problems, including orbital debris.

    Finally, we...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Remedies and Their Use in Other Communities
    (pp. 45-58)

    This chapter examines the concepts of remediation in more detail. After reviewing the definition, we describe a distinction that we observed while researching the approaches used to remedy spam, asbestos, and environmental pollution. We also note the important link that often exists between technology and successful remediation. Finally, using the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a case study, we highlight the lessons that we compiled after investigating remedies from outside the aerospace industry.

    Remediation refers to the act of applying a remedy in order to reverse events or stop undesired effects. Remedies are designed to fix a problem or...

  17. CHAPTER NINE Summarizing Observations
    (pp. 59-66)

    This project included three primary objectives: determine whether analogous problems from outside the aerospace industry exist that are comparable to orbital debris; develop a list of identifying characteristics along with an associated framework that could be used to describe all of these problems, including debris; and use the framework to draw comparisons between orbital debris and the analogous problems.

    As we mentioned in the introduction, our research identifies effective mitigation strategies, remediation approaches, and lessons learned from outside industries that can be applied to the orbital debris problem.

    In this chapter, we summarize the key themes that we identified as...

  18. APPENDIXES A A Brief Overview of Orbital Debris and the Comparable Problems
    (pp. 67-68)
  19. APPENDIXES B The Descriptive Framework Applied to Orbital Debris and the Comparables
    (pp. 69-90)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 91-96)
  21. Works Consulted for Timelines
    (pp. 97-120)
  22. Index
    (pp. 121-128)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 130-130)