Managing Satellite Debris in Low-Earth Orbit: Incentivizing Ex Ante Satellite Quality and Ex Post Take-Back Programs

  • Zachary Grzelka
  • Jeffrey WagnerEmail author


Increased economic activity in low-Earth orbit (LEO) in the past century created debris fields that impede current and future economic activities. We propose an economic model that combines elements of patent law with space law to enable comparisons of policy instruments. In particular, we propose policies that leverage the intellectual property rights system and that facilitate additional joint research and development to incentivize ex ante increases in satellite quality. Our model also considers the impact of individual and collective ex post LEO debris take-back programs, analogous to those designed for terrestrial contexts. Our results suggest policy refinements for the outer space context that may be of interest beyond managing satellite debris in LEO.


Economics of outer space Orbital debris Outer space pollution Space law 

JEL Classification

Q58 K32 H23 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsRochester Institute of TechnologyRochesterUSA

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