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Commercial Space Tourism May Spike Black Carbon Emissions

Opening of America's first spaceport and expectation of 1000 suborbital flights a year create new source of warming pollution

By Joan Oleck

Nov 5, 2010

Said Rick Homans, executive director of , where Galactic is the anchor tenant: “I think that as the industry moves forward, it wants to do this in the cleanest way possible and avoid any kind of damage to the planet.”

Virgin Galactic is competing with several other companies in California and the Southwest to be the first in commercial space, including XCOR in Mojave, California; Armadillo Aerospace in Rockwall, TX; Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, NV; Masten Space Systems in Mojave, CA; and SPACEX in Hawthorne, CA. There’s also a broker, Space Adventures, in Vienna, VA.

Galactic deliberately chose to use hybrid rocket fuel, which combines the properties of liquid and solid rocket fuel, Whitesides said. Galactic also constructed its space vehicles from an all-carbon composite because it’s lighter and can take a smaller engine, requiring less propulsive force, and therefore less fuel.

“These are choices we’ve made that have a lower environmental impact,” Whitesides said.

Criticism of Study, and a Response

Whitesides had two major criticisms of the study. “One of the things that’s a little disappointing is that the authors didn’t include a range of uncertainty in their model,” he said. “What’s the confidence around that number? I don’t think we know that.”

“Given the lack of detailed knowledge of the microphysical rocket black carbon and an unknown growth rate of the space transport sector, we cannot place a formal uncertainty on our model,” Ross said. “There are no measurements of soot from rocket engines of any kind, whether they’re 50 years old or are going to be used 10 years from now.”

Whitesides also said the amount of fuel propulsion used in the simulation is twice what Virgin Galactic would use in a typical launch. Moroever, that amount—up to 20,000 pounds per launch—is a fraction of what is employed in current global rocket launches. “The [NASA] shuttle flies five times a year, so you’re talking about five million pounds of solid propulsion being burned every year—which is roughly a thousand times one of our flights. And they’ve been doing it for 30 years.

“I don’t think anyone is attributing a .4 degree change in temperature to the space shuttle program,” Whitesides said.

Ross said the Space Shuttle has been the subject of a “modest amount” of scientific inquiry, which he has been involved in, since the 1990s. It focused on the impact of chlorine from solid rocket fuel on the ozone layer. “I am not aware of scientific studies of the climate impact of solid rocket motors of the type that the Space Shuttle uses,” Ross said.  

Both Whitesides and Homans said they may be among the industry representatives at a conference The Aerospace Corporation is planning to host in January. The details are still being developed, but the emissions issue will be front and center at that conference, according to an Aerospace Corporation spokesman.

Industry positions will be key indicators for how the emerging sector handles concerns about emissions, said NRDC’s Lovaas. “It’s kind of an extra burden on the leaders in this new industry to make sure they’re responsible,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be paying attention.”

Image: Mike Miley via flckr Creative Commons license

See Also:

'Black Carbon' Crackdown Offers Fast-Action Solution to Slow Warming

Research Questions Value of Cutting Black Carbon as a Global Warming Solution

Tibetan Nomads Struggle as Grasslands Disappear from the Roof of the World

Arctic Nations Order Investigation of Black Carbon, Blamed for Significant Ice Melt

The Shipping Industry’s Pollution Problem Part II: A Lack of Authority

Permanent tourism

Let's just send the Republicans up into space and let them find another planet. 

the suborbital space tourism is TOO DANGEROUS

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Why the suborbital space tourism is TOO DANGEROUS
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ghostnasa.com/posts2/073spacetourism.html
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Read my article before buy a $200,000 suborbital ticket :D
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the suborbital space tourism is TOO DANGEROUS

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Why the suborbital space tourism is TOO DANGEROUS >>>
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Read my article before buy a $200,000 suborbital ticket :D
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Capitalism = destruction of

Capitalism = destruction of earth.  If anybody really, really wanted to save this planet, there are tons of things we could give up to do so.  But capitalism will not allow for it.  The "need" for the almighty dollar (which is really just paper and makes everything seem even that much sillier), means that many people are always going to be willing to waste and destroy to get their greenbacks.  All this talk, and articles just like these, are just around to give people something to talk about.  Nothing will ever get done.  It will always continue to be too late, and this planet will not be able to sustain life for much longer.

We are NOT the "intelligent species" everybody seemingly calls us... we destroy our own habitat... seems a little retarded to me.  We know we need clean air and water to survive as a species... yet we pollute them every.. single.. day.  But hey, as long as the kids have their Wii! 'Cause that's what really counts.

With all that said, we are possibly the least intelligent species on the planet.

Least Intelligent

If you're concerned about the environment unplug your computer.....simply complaining about complaining about things we all know doesn't fix anything or move any of us closer to a goal.   How much sense does it make for you to use electicity that comes from dammed rivers, coal spewing power plants whine to the world about how stupid we all are rather than using the same power to move towards a solution?

It's me!

Capitalism = destruction of earth.  If anybody really, really wanted to save this planet, there are tons of things we could give up to do so.  But capitalism will not allow for it.  The "need" for the almighty dollar (which is really just paper and makes everything seem even that much sillier), means that many people are always going to be willing to waste and destroy to get their greenbacks.  All this talk, and articles just like these, are just around to give people something to talk about.  Nothing will ever get done.  It will always continue to be too late, and this planet will not be able to sustain life for much longer.

We are NOT the "intelligent species" everybody seemingly calls us... we destroy our own habitat... seems a little retarded to me.  We know we need clean air and water to survive as a species... yet we pollute them every.. single.. day.  But hey, as long as the kids have their Wii! 'Cause that's what really counts.

With all that said, we are possibly the least intelligent species on the planet.

Dumb species we are

Capitalism = destruction of earth.  If anybody really, really wanted to save this planet, there are tons of things we could give up to do so.  But capitalism will not allow for it.  The "need" for the almighty dollar (which is really just paper and makes everything seem even that much sillier), means that many people are always going to be willing to waste and destroy to get their greenbacks.  All this talk, and articles just like these, are just around to give people something to talk about.  Nothing will ever get done.  It will always continue to be too late, and this planet will not be able to sustain life for much longer.

We are NOT the "intelligent species" everybody seemingly calls us... we destroy our own habitat... seems a little retarded to me.  We know we need clean air and water to survive as a species... yet we pollute them every.. single.. day.  But hey, as long as the kids have their Wii! 'Cause that's what really counts.

With all that said, we are possibly the least intelligent species on the planet.

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