For the past two publications, we have talked about sustainability with respect to air and ground travel. Now, in light of the fact that the European Space Agency has announced that it is developing a reusable rocket engine not dissimilar from that of SpaceX, we thought it may be logical to tackle sustainability in space travel, given that it is becoming an increasingly popular topic.
How much do rockets pollute?
The myriad of fumes produced by a rocket on its race for the stars makes for quite a show. That said, although rocket launches may be impressive, they do not seem environmentally friendly. Unsurprisingly, rockets release numerous substances, and depending on the type of engine they use, some of which may actually reduce the greenhouse effect.
Luckily, this will not be a problem for long. SpaceX's Starlink network, Amazon’s Kuiper project, and many other large satellite deployment operations will surely make the amount of yearly spacecraft launches skyrocket (pun intended). In addition, Elon Musk has stated that, one day he will leverage space travel in order to allow individuals to go from one place to any other place on Earth in less than 30 minutes. Imagine the day we finally get fully electric commercial airliners, everyone starts using rockets to get around!
The creation of large satellite networks, combined with the usage of space travel as an ultra-fast transportation system, could make a rocket launch just as exciting as witnessing a plane take off. That day may not be tomorrow. It may not be in a month. It may not be in a year. But it will come.
It is possible that rockets will introduce chemicals into the atmosphere that will counter the effects of global warming. Or maybe their exhaust is actually less toxic than we think. Perhaps the most sustainable form of transportation is the rocket? One thing’s for sure is that these new projects will doubtlessly allow us to better study and understand the effects of space travel on the environment here on Earth.
As the frequency of rocket launches increases, more data can be accumulated and a clearer picture will emerge. Perhaps it is in the space industry that we will find a means by which we shall reduce, or end, global warming once and for all.