As we await the scheduled launch of American astronauts in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule later today (hopefully), perhaps we should be considering some of the ramifications of all of these rockets being sent into orbit lately. They produce an awful lot of “space junk” that buzzes around the planet at high speeds in low Earth orbit. This has led some astrophysicists to describe that nearby region of space as “the solar system’s biggest junkyard.”
Rather than just bemoaning all of the untidiness, one professor at the University of Colorado has come up with a solution. Let’s just impose a tax on all rocket launches. This would supposedly incentivize the space industry to clean up their act and not produce all of this hazardous junk in our skies. Because there’s almost no problem the government can’t quickly address by creating more taxes or something. (CBS Denver)
A University of Colorado economist, Matthew Burgess, believes this additional risk should be offset by additional fees. These “orbital-use fees” would apply to every new satellite placed into orbit.
“We need a policy that lets satellite operators directly factor in the costs their launches impose on other operators,” said Burgess.
Burgess co-authored a new study on the topic. It was published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He and the other researchers think the current solutions that involve mechanically removing the objects with nets, harpoons or lasers, or managing the de-orbiting of a satellite at the end of its use, don’t adequately solve the problem.