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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday June 02 2020, @05:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the cloud-of-junk dept.

Orbital Use Fees Proposed As the Most Effective Way to Solve the Space Junk Problem:

The most effective way to solve the space junk problem, according to a new study, is not to capture debris or deorbit old satellites: it's an international agreement to charge operators "orbital-use fees" for every satellite put into orbit.

Orbital use fees would also increase the long-run value of the space industry, said economist Matthew Burgess, a CIRES Fellow and co-author of the new paper. By reducing future satellite and debris collision risk, an annual fee rising to about $235,000 per satellite would quadruple the value of the satellite industry by 2040, he and his colleagues concluded in a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Space is a common resource, but companies aren't accounting for the cost their satellites impose on other operators when they decide whether or not to launch," said Burgess, who is also an assistant professor in Environmental Studies and an affiliated faculty member in Economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. "We need a policy that lets satellite operators directly factor in the costs their launches impose on other operators."

[...] A better approach to the space debris problem, Rao and his colleagues found, is to implement an orbital-use fee — a tax on orbiting satellites. "That's not the same as a launch fee," Rao said, "Launch fees by themselves can't induce operators to deorbit their satellites when necessary, and it's not the launch but the orbiting satellite that causes the damage."

[...] "In our model, what matters is that satellite operators are paying the cost of the collision risk imposed on other operators," said Daniel Kaffine, professor of economics and RASEI Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author on the paper.

Reference:
Akhil Rao, Matthew G. Burgess and Daniel Kaffine, Orbital-use fees could more than quadruple the value of the space industry", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1921260117


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bradley13 on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:01PM (5 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:01PM (#1002267) Homepage Journal

    What a stupid idea. Put forward, undoubtedly, by someone who would stand to profit from these fees.

    an annual fee rising to about $235,000 per satellite would quadruple the value of the satellite industry by 2040

    Guess what, taxing something doesn't make that thing more valuable. What it does is provide a disincentive to purchase said thing. So: fewer satellites, which would be a net reduction in the value of the space industry.

    Now, if they were serious, what they could do is require a bond: Pay a substantial fee into a blocked account; get it back when the satellite is successfully de-orbited. Thus providing a financial incentive to make sure that your satellite does not become space junk. Make the amount enough that adding de-orbiting capability is economically worthwhile.

    But means no one would be sucking in the fees. They would just be sitting in a neutral bank account. Where's the opportunity for graft and corruption? So...won't happen...

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:18PM (2 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:18PM (#1002280)

    > require a bond: Pay a substantial fee into a blocked account; get it back when the satellite is successfully de-orbited.

    The cost is an ongoing operational cost to all other satellite owners and ground-based monitoring stations (typically run by governments), so this model doesn't make sense.

    Say Elong Moog launches 100,000 satellites. Then all other satellite owners have to pay to track those satellites and dodge them if/when they come close.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:20PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 02 2020, @06:20PM (#1002281) Journal

      While space is big, it is not unlimited. Thus it may actually be necessary to manage it just as with radio spectrum.

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    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @04:48AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @04:48AM (#1002608)

      "The cost is an ongoing operational cost"

      So if the company goes bankrupt and can't afford to keep paying the fees nor can they afford to remove the satellite? Then the satellite gets left up there with no fees getting paid. Companies will simply go bankrupt and employees/executives/investors will move on to new companies that do the same thing without having to pay fees so that they can 'start new'.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday June 02 2020, @09:41PM (1 child)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 02 2020, @09:41PM (#1002391) Journal

    Now, if they were serious, what they could do is require a bond: Pay a substantial fee into a blocked account; get it back when the satellite is successfully de-orbited.

    It's not easy to get ahold of present day regulations on satellites, but they do a lot of this stuff already throughout the world. At the least, the operator has to show they have a plan for end of life (for example, deorbiting the satellite or putting it into a permanent out of the way "disposal" orbit).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @12:59AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @12:59AM (#1002521)

      Do they do this already? AFAIK it's a lot easier submit a plan for de-orbiting than it is to transfer $$$$$ as a bond for de-orbiting.

      You can more easily easily copy and reuse a plan for a similar satellite than reuse $$$$$ that's already been transferred to someone else.