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Games 2016, 7(3), 20; doi:10.3390/g7030020

Space Debris Removal: A Game Theoretic Analysis

1
Department of Computer Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK
2
DFKI GmbH, 28359 Bremen, Germany
3
Advanced Concepts Team, European Space Agency, 2201 AZ Noordwijk, The Netherlands
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ulrich Berger
Received: 6 June 2016 / Revised: 22 July 2016 / Accepted: 2 August 2016 / Published: 11 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Real World Applications of Game Theory)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [547 KB, uploaded 19 August 2016]   |  

Abstract

We analyse active space debris removal efforts from a strategic, game-theoretical perspective. Space debris is non-manoeuvrable, human-made objects orbiting Earth, which pose a significant threat to operational spacecraft. Active debris removal missions have been considered and investigated by different space agencies with the goal to protect valuable assets present in strategic orbital environments. An active debris removal mission is costly, but has a positive effect for all satellites in the same orbital band. This leads to a dilemma: each agency is faced with the choice between the individually costly action of debris removal, which has a positive impact on all players; or wait and hope that others jump in and do the ‘dirty’ work. The risk of the latter action is that, if everyone waits, the joint outcome will be catastrophic, leading to what in game theory is referred to as the ‘tragedy of the commons’. We introduce and thoroughly analyse this dilemma using empirical game theory and a space debris simulator. We consider two- and three-player settings, investigate the strategic properties and equilibria of the game and find that the cost/benefit ratio of debris removal strongly affects the game dynamics. View Full-Text
Keywords: space debris removal; empirical game theory; tragedy of the commons; strategic substitutes space debris removal; empirical game theory; tragedy of the commons; strategic substitutes
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Klima, R.; Bloembergen, D.; Savani, R.; Tuyls, K.; Hennes, D.; Izzo, D. Space Debris Removal: A Game Theoretic Analysis. Games 2016, 7, 20.

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