22 June 2021 Reviews

Space Debris Peril

Predictably, the more the space debris issue becomes part of the collective consciousness of the space community, the more books appear on the subject. This latest contribution is a collection of presentations by a dozen authors, including engineers and lawyers, edited by a space entrepreneur and a risk analyst.

The book gets straight into two of the subject’s leading buzz-phrases – space situational awareness and space traffic management - before taking a sidestep into the social sciences with a brief examination of “sociotechnical” and “sustainability” issues. The two following sections review possible deorbiting systems and other aspects under the currently fashionable headings of space debris mitigation and Active Debris Removal (ADR).

The volume ends with sections on space law, risk assessment and mitigation (including insurance) and space governance aspects. Most chapters end with a list of acronyms, a glossary, further reading and a bibliography, which makes the book a ‘compact primer’ for anyone new to the subject.

Although most of the content has been covered elsewhere, the book serves to collect the relevant content together and present it in an academic context. This sets it apart from the many books that have sought to highlight the problem of space debris but trivialised it in the process (for example, by referring to it as ‘space junk’). To some extent, it is over-academised, which risks excluding the non-specialist element of its intended audience, but I know which approach I’d vote for if I was living on a space station in low Earth orbit!

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