This article examines the complex policy problem of space debris and elaborates a proposal for a bottom-up cooperative regime for its mitigation. While debris proliferation generates costs and threatens the safety of personnel and equipment, this policy problem is compounded by the realization that debris constitutes a by-product of desirable space activities which facilitate national progress and domestic increases in values. It is further complicated by increased private participation, conflicting interests of participants, and a global order susceptible to outlier behavior.
Scholars attempting to tackle this policy problem have failed to appreciate the complex legislative process through which international rules develop, proposing to apply other regimes of global governance, mutatis mutandis, to facilitate debris mitigation. This article offers a more realistic approach which evaluates substance, process, and metrics of success.
Utilizing the policy-oriented lens of the New Haven School of International Law, this Article applies the novel "regime evolution approach" to propose an optimum global order for space debris mitigation which promotes the highest gain in values for all participants. The article outlines the international values which the regime must optimize and the interactions between the participants which will shape its development. The proposed cooperation regime follows the realization that the international community must prioritize the protection and promotion of benefits from space activities for participants, rather than be fixated solely on mitigating externalities. This regime will successfully sway policy choices towards debris mitigation because it is feasible for adoption, effective at optimizing values, and manageable vis-à-vis outliers.