Sustainable Space. Weltraumschrott als Umweltproblem

May 24 2023 | | 6 - 7:30 p.m. | Lecture Hall VII, Main Building University of Bonn

Fifth event of the lecture series "Nach den Sternen greifen. Der Weltraum als Wirtschafts-, Lebens- und Wettbewerbsraum im 21. Jahrhundert" (Summer Semester 2023) with PD Dr. Daniel Lambach.

The problem of space debris has been known to experts and politicians alike for decades. As early as 1978, the dangers of a collision cascade of satellites and the resulting clouds of debris were described, and the so-called "Kessler syndrome" of an Earth orbit unusable due to space debris has been part of the standard vocabulary of the relevant expert community ever since. Nevertheless, efforts to curb the problem of space debris remain insufficient to this day. Investments, practical incentives, and regulatory structures for avoiding or removing debris lag far behind what would be needed for long-term, sustainable use of Earth orbit.

On the contrary, the problem is further exacerbated by the massive increase in the use of low Earth orbits since about 2019. Since companies like Starlink have been sending gigantic constellations of small satellites into orbit, the number of objects there has been increasing at an unprecedented rate. However, the carrying capacity of the orbits is finite - the risk of destructive collisions is constantly increasing.

In this talk, possibilities for a better way of dealing with this problem will be outlined, starting from this diagnosis of the problem. These are based on the normative conviction that we should also understand outer space as an environment that can be damaged and affected by human actions. As a proposed solution, it is argued not to wait for the creation of new intergovernmental organizations and treaties, but to rely more on polycentric governance. These approaches recognize the diversity of space actors and empower them to find their own decentralized arrangements, e.g., for space traffic management or for developing a common situational awareness.



Opening remarks:

Dr. Enrico Fels
Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies, University of Bonn


PD Dr. Daniel Lambach
Heisenberg Fellow, Research Center "Normative Orders", Goethe University Frankfurt


Dr. Cedric Bierganns
Security Policy and Armed Forces Officer, Federal City Bonn Office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation

In close cooperation of:

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