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Latest revision as of 16:08, 20 July 2021


As Space Tourism Takes Off, Questions Need to be Asked

July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos goes to Space: Blue Origin successfully launches humans into space

Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk... the Blue Origin’s New Shepard space crew

Space Race: What Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson are each trying to achieve

Space Tourism and emission-climate questions - July 20, 2021.jpg

Read the research article:

Space tourism to accelerate climate change

Adam Mann et al.


Article Published / 2010

Scientists predict that soot from commercial space flight will change global temperatures.

“There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact.”

Climate change caused by black carbon, also known as soot, emitted during a decade of commercial space flight would be comparable to that from current global aviation, researchers estimate.

The findings, reported in a paper in press in Geophysical Research Letters1, suggest that emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would persist high in the stratosphere, potentially altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone.

The simulations show that the changes to Earth's climate could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 °C, and reduce polar sea ice by 5–15%.

"There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact," says Martin Ross, an atmospheric scientist at the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California and an author of the study.

Private space flight is a rapidly maturing industry. Spaceport America, a launch site in Las Cruces, New Mexico, opened its first runway on 22 October. During the next three years, companies such as Virgin Galactic, headquartered at Spaceport America, expect to make up to two launches per day for space tourists. Meanwhile, the NASA Authorization Act passed by US Congress in September provides US$1.6 billion in private space-flight investments to develop vehicles to take astronauts and cargo into orbit.

Commercial rockets burn a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen. But several private space-flight companies, such as Virgin Galactic, may soon use a more economical 'hybrid' rocket engine that ignites synthetic hydrocarbon with nitrous oxide, says Ross. These hybrid engines emit more black carbon than a kerosene and oxygen engine, he adds.

"Rain and weather wash out these particles from the atmosphere near Earth's surface, but in the stratosphere there isn't any rain and they can remain for 3 to 10 years," says Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, and another author of the paper.

Soot surprise

The researchers ran global atmospheric models of an injection of about 600 tonnes of black carbon per year at a single location: Las Cruces. The results showed a soot layer in the stratosphere that stays within 10° latitude of the launch site, says Ross. Furthermore, around 80% of the black carbon remained in the Northern Hemisphere, spreading out to between 25° and 45° northern latitude.


Earth Science, Environmental Security










Earth-Thin Blue Atmosphere-Moon image - NASA.jpg

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