A rocket launched by China recently plunged to earth with debris landing in the Indian Ocean.
It is therefore not a matter of if space rockets destroy our environment; it is a matter of how much?
The fact that reports failed to mention how the rocket will contaminate the ocean and destroy marine life from toxic rocket fuel and space junk proves my point.
Space launches are controversial issues because they both harm and help the environment.
Most conservationists and climate change activists see space programs as militaristic splurges that squander billions of dollars better applied to solving problems on earth. However, NASA would argue that climate change can only be solved from space.
It was NASA satellite data that revealed a frightening hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole that was rapidly growing. This galvanized public concern so that in 1987 the Montreal Protocol became the first international agreement addressing a global environmental problem. Since then, thanks to worldwide restrictions on worldwide chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s from air conditioners) the ozone has stabilized.
However, space launches have a hefty carbon footprint from the burning of solid rocket fuels releasing trace gases into the upper atmosphere that contribute to ozone depletion. “Space junk” and soot particles are also growing concerns as disused satellites and other space debris accumulate in our planet’s orbit.
NASA has determined that climate change is real because coral reef degradation, harmful plankton blooms, melting polar ice caps and thinning ice from space can more easily be observed and researched from space. However, the irony is that NASA while studying climate change is also exacerbating it, and that Elon Musk, who is pushing sustainable energy and electric vehicles also has a rocket company that runs on fossil fuels, and Jeff Bezos who just pledged $10B to combat climate change will soon be launching a rocket the size of Saturn V moon rocket.
These are just a few of the controversial contradictions facing us in our 2021 Space Age.
What about countries that are shooting off rockets just for the bang of it?
Should the Paris Climate Change Agreement ban them from doing this?
Fueled by surging data transmissions and the race for commercial space flights between Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Bezo’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., the number of launches—including mini-rockets—is expected to increase tenfold to roughly 1,000 in the coming years. SpaceX alone is planning to launch 12,000 satellites in the next seven years for its Starlink internet constellation.
Besides GHG pollution, kerosene fueled rockets transport large amounts of black carbon (soot) into the upper layers of the atmosphere creating an umbrella that increases global warming. The fuel is widely used because it’s easier to handle than hydrogen.
Although there are no regulations on rocket emissions, new space pioneers are developing launchers that are less damaging to the planet.
“Climate change is real, and we don’t want to make it worse,” says Chris Larmour, CEO of British rocket maker Orbex. The start-up founded in 2015 has a contract with U.S launch integrator TriSept Corp. using bio-propane that can cut CO2 emissions by 90% compared to traditional launch fuel.
Orbex plans to have its Prime rocket take its maiden flight at the end of 2021 using a liquid fuel based on light hydrocarbon that will reduce soot and CO2 by up to 40% and completely avoid black carbon which is a much bigger climate problem.
“So far the only criteria to build rockets is performance and cost,” said Jean-Marc Astorg, director for launch vehicles at French space agency CNES. “Environment was not a priority at all. That’s changing.”
Let’s hope so, because NASA probes have also revealed how a runaway greenhouse gas syndrome turned Venus into a hot, hellish, uninhabitable planet of acid rain. Will earth be next?
Tricia Clarkson is a Freelance Writer/Journalist.
This Article firstly Publish on www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com