Game theory experts to analyse space debris removal

October 22, 2015, University of Liverpool
Game theory experts to analyse space debris removal

Researchers from the University of Liverpool are using strategic game theory to analyse the accumulation of space debris, and to assess removal efforts and mitigation measures to limit its growth.

Space debris is non-manoeuvrable, human-made objects which orbit the Earth which poses a significant collision risk for operational spacecraft, especially in low-Earth orbit.

A collision with a piece of space debris of about ten centimetre in diameter would cause a spacecraft to disintegrate resulting in more space debris fragments, which in turn increases collision risk.

The build-up of space debris could eventually result in a catastrophic cascade of collisions, called the Kessler syndrome. Currently, there are more than 23,000 objects larger than 5-10cm in Earth's orbit.

Supported by the European Space Agency (ESA), University Computer Scientists will develop theoretical models to study the accrual and removal of space debris as well as assess the different policies and actions that could be used to limit its growth.

Game theory

Game theory is an economical theory that models interactions between rational agents as games of two or more players that can choose from a set of strategies and the corresponding preferences. It is the mathematical study of interactive decision making in the sense that the agents involved in the decisions take into account their own choices and those of others.

The Liverpool team (Dr Daan Bloembergen, Professor Karl Tuyls , Dr. Rahul Savani, Richard Klima) at the ESA in the Netherlands.

Choices are determined by stable preferences concerning the outcomes of their possible decisions and agents act strategically, in other words, they take into account the relation between their own choices and the decisions of other agents. Different economical situations lead to different rational strategies for the players involved.

Dynamic game

Professor Karl Tuyls who is leading the project said: "We will be using techniques to model debris accumulation and active removal efforts from space agencies and governments as a dynamic game, to determine optimal behaviour assuming both cooperative and self-interested parties, and hopefully to propose a mechanism to steer the behaviour of these involved parties to a desirable outcome.

"Space debris accumulation has become a critical problem that can potentially affect all of us, not just governments, space agencies and industry."

Professor Tuyls added: "It is expected that this study will provide a deeper understanding of the space debris problem and its potential economic ramifications, and will provide an insight into the use of game theory solution strategies to address complex real-life issues."

The ESA is investing in mission concepts to clean up and deorbit . Removing active debris represents a number of technical complex challenges as well as being a very costly undertaking.

Explore further: Space debris expert warns about dangers of orbital junk

Related Stories

Space debris expert warns about dangers of orbital junk

January 12, 2015

The emerging problem of floating space junk becomes more and more evident and bothersome. Spacecraft and satellites are currently subject to high-speed impacts by more than 19,000 trackable objects, mainly old satellites, ...

Focus on growing threat of space debris

April 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —The continuing growth in space debris poses an increasing threat to economically vital orbital regions. Next week, hundreds of top experts from across the globe will meet at Europe's largest-ever debris forum ...

Space station in no need to move to avoid debris

October 3, 2012

(AP)—Russia's Mission Control Center said Wednesday it dropped an earlier plan to move the International Space Station into a different orbit to avoid possible collision with space debris after additional calculations showed ...

ESA experts assess risk from exploded satellite

March 5, 2015

After studying the recent explosive break-up of a US satellite, ESA space debris experts have concluded this event does not increase the collision risk to nearby ESA missions in any meaningful way.

Space debris problem now urgent, scientists say

April 25, 2013

Governments must start working urgently to remove orbital debris, which could become a catastrophic problem for satellites a few decades from now, a space science conference heard on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Birth of massive black holes in the early universe revealed

January 23, 2019

The light released from around the first massive black holes in the universe is so intense that it is able to reach telescopes across the entire expanse of the universe. Incredibly, the light from the most distant black holes ...

Astronomers discover an unusual nuclear transient

January 23, 2019

An international group of astronomers has detected an unusual nuclear transient in the nucleus of a weakly active galaxy. The new transient was identified by the OGLE-IV Transient Detection System and received designation ...

Scientist sheds light on Titan's mysterious atmosphere

January 23, 2019

A new Southwest Research Institute study tackles one of the greatest mysteries about Titan, one of Saturn's moons: the origin of its thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. The study posits that one key to Titan's mysterious atmosphere ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.