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Queensland uni professor raises expensive space junk concerns

Stephen Kuper

Space junk and debris is emerging as a major challenge for the modern space infrastructure that the national and global economy depend upon. University of Southern Queensland associate professor Peter Phillips has taken a closer look at solving this costly challenge.

Queensland uni professor raises expensive space junk concerns
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From flecks of paint to abandoned satellites, this man-made debris numbers in the millions and travels around 28,000km/h, endangering working spacecraft. Even the smallest piece could cause catastrophic damage.

Associate professor (finance and banking) Peter Phillips said it was a complex issue, compounded by the different needs of everyone involved.

"The use and exploration of outer space is, according to the Outer Space Treaty, is to be carried out for the benefit and interest of all parties. But when it comes to solving a massive problem such as space junk, not everyone is on the same page," Phillips explained. 

He recently published an article in the journal for Defence and Peace Economics titled 'Space Junk: Behavioural Economics and the Prioritisation of Solutions', where he discussed the economic and national security impact of space debris. 

"Classical economics assumes that people make rational economical decisions, yet behavioural economics takes into account the psychology of decision making," he said. 

Phillips said although the extent of the current problem was alarming, all involved could better understand the complexities confronting governments and private companies.

"For example, it is possible there are governments and corporations who feel themselves to be in the “domain of losses”, lagging far behind those earlier space-faring nations. They may feel compelled to take risks in order to ‘catch up’ and potentially be less willing to make concessions when negotiating a solution," Phillips explained. 

"We can use what we now know about human decision making to more effectively negotiate and develop a better treaty, one that is flexible and works for all involved."

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