Orbital debris is a disaster waiting to happen. Orbital debris threatens the future of space commerce and
exploration for all spacefaring countries. It has resulted from human activities dating back to the dawn of the
space – activities which have left discarded booster, satellite fragments, leftover and defunct pieces that zoom
around at terrific speed in Earth orbits. Because of the speed with which it travels, orbital debris even the size
of a marble can be disastrous for humans and their missions in low Earth orbit, where the new mega
constellations of satellites and the International Space Station reside. Collisions of any kind would be especially
disastrous for the prosperity and security of the United States, the world’s most space dependent power.
Cleaning up orbital debris is an obvious solution for a ruinous hazard in the space environment. But, it is not
amenable to science and technology solutions alone. For one thing, the dual-use nature of space technologies
can affect outcomes in a world of great power competition. For another, it also requires political framing,
engagement, and diplomacy at a time that the importance of international law and diplomacy is at an all time
low. This taskforce assesses prospects for constructive U.S. policy leadership on orbital debris that preserves
peaceful prospects in outer space.
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