A Tragedy of the Space Commons?

25 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2010

Date Written: April 8, 2010


Space debris has been and still remains a growing threat for the international space community. The population of man-made debris polluting the space environment has exacerbated, resulting from some 50 years of space-related activities being undertaken. Present estimates reveal that there are about 24,500 cataloged in-orbit objects and some 7,500 of those objects are artificial debris. In the absence of proper controls, the number of all cataloged objects is expected to rise from 50 per cent in 2019 and quadruples in 2059. As a source of pollution, orbiting debris adversely damages the space environment. The continuing growth of debris in heavily used orbital regions, like Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary Orbit, not causes minor or complete abruptions to space operations, but potentially could prevent launches of planned space vehicles; thus, denying future access to, and use of, outer space. This Article shall refer to the metaphorical model of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ as developed by Garrett Hardin, and constructs a parallel with that hypothetical model with the congested space environment caused by orbiting debris. It shall be demonstrated that space is and can be characterised as the ‘Space Commons’.

Keywords: Outer Space, Space Debris, Hardin, Space Law

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Chaddha, Shane, A Tragedy of the Space Commons? (April 8, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1586643 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1586643
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