Cascading crises:
: orbital debris and the widening of space security

  • Bleddyn Endaf Bowen

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The Kessler syndrome predicts that Earth orbit will see a runaway growth of orbital debris regardless of debris mitigation measures put in place by space users. Active debris removal is considered here as a way to ameliorate the Kessler syndrome and stave off the worst of its predictions – but the cascading problem within academia of widening ‘space security’ to include non-military risks in ‘security’ threat analyses jeopardises the deployment of active debris removal systems without the negative political repercussions of them being perceived as anti-satellite weapons. Based on a conceptual discussion of the term ‘security’ and the perspective of US space policy, an argument is made to keep ‘space security’ traditional in its focus – in that it should only be concerned with the political-military threats that space powers may pose to each other. The environmental hazards of space should not be considered security threats, although they are indeed crucial problems to address if human civilisation wishes to continue to utilise space and expand its presence into the cosmos. As orbital debris will continue to pose risks to space assets regardless of the political climate, it should be viewed in terms of a space development agenda, rather than a national security threat.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJan Růžička (Supervisor)

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