Ever since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, humans have put over 40,000 pieces of debris into orbit around the Earth. In particular, most launches and debris tends to go to either Low Earth Orbit (LEO), or Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). While GEO has some regulations on its use, there are limited regulations for the use of LEO. Accumulated debris in LEO jeopardizes the future utility of space. So far, various measures for the mitigation and management of debris in LEO have been proposed. This paper looks to establish a baseline cost of clean space in LEO against which other debris management policies can be compared. By launching to MEO instead of LEO, an upper bound cost of $22.15 million would needed between now and 2050, by which time about one third of all the debris pieces in LEO would have decayed into the upper atmosphere. Though such a policy is not likely to be implemented, and downright impossible to carry out for microsatellites, the cost study should serve as a baseline for other proposed policies to keep LEO relatively clear of debris and safe for continued human use.
Science, Technology and Public Policy (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Public Policy (CLA)
O'Gorman, John, "The Cost of Clean Space- A Study of the Additional Fuel Costs of Launching Above Low Earth Orbit" (2018). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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