Earth’s Orbits at Risk

The Economics of Space Sustainability

Society’s dependence on space infrastructure is at a critical juncture. Public and private actors worldwide are planning to launch tens of thousands of satellites into Earth’s orbit in the next five years. This will greatly expand and enrich the use of space resources, but it will also result in more crowded orbits and greater risk of damage from satellite collision and space debris. As satellite launches continue to multiply and concerns grow, the long-term sustainability of space-based infrastructure on orbit and beyond is set to emerge as an increasingly important space policy issue of the 21st century. This publication takes stock of the growing socio-economic dependence of our modern societies on space assets, and the general threats to space-based infrastructure from debris in particular. Notably, it provides fresh insights into the value of space-based infrastructure and the potential costs generated by space debris, drawing on new academic research developed especially for the OECD project on the economics of space sustainability.

Available from September 15, 2022


Abbreviations and acronyms
Executive summary
Space sustainability and the OECD
Space sustainability as the next major societal challenge
An environmental economics framework for measuring the cost of space debris
Identifying the costs caused by an irreversible deterioration of the orbital regimes
Socio-economic benefits of earth observation: Insights from firms in Italy
Economic theory applied to space debris scenarios
On the emergence of an active debris removal market
Estimation of the costs and benefits of debris mitigation
An efficiency analysis of space launch activities
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