We analyse active space debris removal efforts from a strategic, game-theoretic perspective. An active debris removal mission is a costly endeavour that has a positive effect (or risk reduction) for all satellites in the same orbital band. This leads to a dilemma: each actor (space agency, private stakeholder, etc.) has an incentive to delay its actions and wait for others to respond. 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 simulation and empirical game theory in a two player setting.
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