Orbital Debris Proliferation and the Evolution of the Space Sustainability

Carson Bullock


This study investigates the relationship between political and physical outcomes in the outer space domain. International norms become translated into national policy, and those policies have concrete manifestations on the debris environment of low-Earth orbit. We treat this process as one vertically integrated model in examination of the effects of norm antipreneurship, the resistance to changes in the norm status quo, on the rate of orbital debris proliferation. We find that entrepreneur and antipreneur designations accurately predict the stances held by state delegations in an international forum. Our model shows that the presence of antipreneurship by the United States delegation to COPUOS is linked with unsustainable space policies by all three major spacefaring powers. Simulating the low-Earth orbital environment, we found that the number of particles of debris, a proxy for spatial density, and the collision fertility are both positively correlated with the proliferation rate, but that ASAT usage frequency is associated with even greater increases to the debris proliferation rate.