Last week we celebrated the dedication of Spaceport America, New Mexico's dedicated private spaceflight hub that hopes to begin launching regular flights to the edge of space sometime next year. This week we hear the other side of the story: space tourism's emissions of black carbon in the upper atmosphere could have dire consequences for climate change, increasing polar temperatures by 1.8 degrees and reducing polar sea ice by 5-15 percent.
A paper publishing in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches each year would dump detrimental amounts of black carbon – the really bad kind – into the stratosphere where it could remain for up to a decade, altering global atmospheric conditions and the distribution of ozone. And because there's no weather up there to scrub the carbon away as it does commercial airline emissions, that black carbon could hang around for a while.
The 3-D models employed ran scenarios of black carbon emissions over Las Cruces, New Mexico, itself, home of Spaceport America (and Virgin Galactic's space tourism headquarters). The models showed that all those firing rockets – 1,000 over the course of a year – would leave behind some 660 tons of black carbon annually, comparable to the emissions of the entire global aviation industry.
Why? Commercial rockets don't burn conventional jet fuel, but rather a mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen. Some, like Virgin's SpaceShipTwo, use a hybrid rocket that fires a synthetic hydrocarbon blended with nitrous oxide. These hybrids are more economical but they emit more black carbon. Black carbon is a ready absorber of sunlight, which leads it to heat the atmosphere wherever it can be found in concentrated quantities.
The authors readily admit their research is preliminary and that they do not have all the data they would've liked; for instance, they did not have precise measurement on how much black carbon Virgin's rocket emits in a given flight. But those preliminary findings don't bode well for an industry that's just learning how to get people safely to suborbital highs. If carriers were required to cut their emissions they might not be able to produce enough power to get to those altitudes, and that would quite clearly be a major setback for the entire space tourism industry.
Screw 'em. SCREW 'EM.
I don't give a flying F if a few thousand millionaires can't spend two hours in space for a couple hundred grand. This is probably the stupidest project (SS2) yet when it comes to commercial space flight. How do they think they are going to recoup their expenditures? How? At the end of the day this ship does nothing that a vomit comet doesn't. If you wanna get a glimpse of space, you can do it for even less by renting out a fighter jet and doing a high altitude flight. You won't know the difference. You aren't going to see the Earth like an astronaut (which is the main appeal of going into space) would from the ISS.
I think ecologism will become the ''new'' nazism. If it continues like this, it will get to the point where radical ecologist will start to want to eliminate people who emites to much carbon. Stop the madness now, the solution to global warming is not to slow down expension, its a technological solution that we need.
If people want to go in space, its there choice, if the problem is only the fuel they use, I bet there is a way to have them make the right choice. Technology can solves all our problems.
The only way for the space tourism to accelerate global warming (or what popular science is calling climate change) is to actually have global warming exist in the first place. There is a chance global warming does not exist after all.
Yes the earth warms, but it also cools in the same year. Its called the four seasons. The other occurences of change in temperature are created by the winds and the closeness of the sun from time to time. This idea of the carbon footprint is so overated. This is all my opininion.
And when autumn, summer, spring, and winter are all hotter than usual and getting hotter it is called warming. This is not my opinion. This is from trained scientists.
CO2 is a warming agent in the atmosphere. That is fact. If you add our CO2 to the mix it could become disastrous. Im not saying panic, but I know that some people will keep saying global warming is not real until 50% of the earth becomes dry desert.
And the conspiracy theorists will say "YOU BELIEVE SCIENTISTS!?" "WHAT A SHEEP!"
And I will say "You are on a computer theorized by scientists. Then built by engineers. Is it sorcery?"
Then people will say. "VOLCANOES PRODUCE MUCH MORE CO2!!!" And I will agree, but if you add that CO2 to our own it is a higher value, right?
CO2 is like dirt in a machine. The machine can only handle so much before it will break down. In the machine's normal operation it acquires dirt, but why on earth would you throw extra sand into a car engine?
It is like saying a car is fine if it is still running. We will keep running our car, black smoke squealing gears flat tires and all, until the engine entirely breaks down.
key being could...they even admit that they lack the data with regards to the ships carbon output...if you lack that data how can study its effects?
To say that the seasons play a roll of equal give and take for the earth's climate is disproved by the loss experienced annually in the polar ice caps. Does the equal amount of ice reform after a year of melting in a winter season? No it does not.
If one is uncomfortable with labeling environmental destruction with global warming then just recognize it as environmental destruction. We might be able to protect ourselves from what we do to destroy the world, by way of migrating or shielding ourselves from the disasters, but the rest of the species are less capable of such adaption.
It would be a mile stone for this innane idea of space tourism to be estinguished because of the known negative effects it will have. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. IF Virgin does not proceed with this they will lose the market to another up and coming company.
I write this just have someone rexamine their standing on "Global Warming". We would love to have the rest of the living world be at the same level of production and adaption we manage so we no longer need to feel responsible for their destruction. We all are not willing to take responsibility for something that is incapable of what we are. When will the knowledge of our being capable of such wonders outweigh our necessity to put it into effect.
@ sjak its called taking baby steps,but going by your logic why didn't the wright brothers build a 747 instead of a glider with an engine in it (sarcasm).The fact is that eventually this will lead to getting futher than suborbital or even LEO its only in its starting phase.
Well said Thor.
I would like to point out that this isn't the automatic end of Space Tourism, they simply need to adapt. I don't perticularly like some of the extreme views climate-nazis hold, but climate change is real, so far as scientific, repeatable evidence can say.
Chaning fuel sources would be best, but may not be practical.
One option to look into is simply filtering the emissions. I don't know if they yet have membranes specifically desinged for Black carbon, but I wouldn't mind if they weight an extra 200 pounds, and have to burn that much more fuel, so long as the black carbon is filtered and stored duing the flight.
Space tourism is fine. If people want to invest in it, and others want to pay for it, more power to them. If evidence shows that they are infringing on the lives of others, they have a duty to rectify the situation. It is simply a degree of fairness that should be acted upon, solved, and then forgotten about.
I want to stay on topic this time about the fuel.Correct me if iam wrong here,but these ships aren't going to be taking off and landing reguarly like commercial airplanes so shouldn't there impact be smaller than all of are carbon spewing cars and mass transit systems.
What they need to do is find a way that is powered fully by electricity already. Have super capacitors, and batteries on the ground, and a large solar array. Then you couldn't need to worry about fuel costs and emissions while in atmosphere. And once you are in space you don't need to worry about running out of fuel. Electrical space propulsion is needed.
It is articles like this that irk me. It is like the boy that cried wolf. The title "Detailed Simulation of Space Tourism Finds It Could Accelerate Climate Change" then later on at the last paragraph they say "The authors readily admit their research is preliminary and that they do not have all the data they would’ve liked; for instance, they did not have precise measurement on how much black carbon Virgin’s rocket emits in a given flight". Well then obviously it was not that detailed of a simulation model. The article reads like a bait and switch, no wonder there are so many global climate change skeptics with junkets like this.
Translation: "We don't actually know what emissions we're talking about. We don't know quantities or what altitude it will be released at. But we do know that if we write a press release that mentions Virgin Galactic, bloggers will pick it up, and maybe we'll get a grant or something."
Srsly, people... 1,000 launches a year? Almost three per day?
Figures don't lie, but liars figure.
Because boeing and air bus are GREATLY founded by governments all accross the world and they probly wouldnt want to risk losing that founding cause of bad public opinion toward that type of industry ...
"space tourism’s emissions of black carbon in the upper atmosphere could have dire consequences for climate change, increasing polar temperatures by 1.8 degrees and reducing polar sea ice by 5-15 percent"
That's a bit of a stretch don't you think? In September 2009, average Arctic sea ice extent was 5.36 million square kilometers (2.07 million square miles).
So 15 percent of 5.36 million is 804,000 square km of sea ice lost to space tourism at 1000 flights a year. This means we could lose 804 sq km of sea ice per flight!? I call B.S.
@chuck - I think it's easier to let these other groups manage these space tourism projects. When the time is ripe, they can always acquire them. There's too much risk in this portion of space travel. And Boeing / Airbus have enough market share. In time that could change. Plus the government funding comment is dead on. Very true. Boeing though is also doing a lot of private work. They are putting up unmanned vehicles for space delivery.
As for this killing the ozone - yeah...that's GREAT. Just what we need.
Oh my heavens. I had no idea.
But now that PopSci has told me, I am going to oppose all private spaceflight. Calling my Congressmen right away to make sure such eco-unfriendly advancements take place ONLY outside the morally superior green US.
Thanks for the heads up.
Perhaps you should copyright the name "Unpopular Science".
Strategic thinking for where your magazine is heading.
if we don't get off this rock, then all humans will die. To get off this rock and start planting roots all over the galaxy we have to entertain this silly notion of space tourism first.
We need to see the opportunity side of this. Car emissions used to contain carbon and sulfur emissions. The sulfur emissions caused acid rain, but it naturally counteracted the green house effect of the carbon emission by reflection sunlight back into space. Simple, put fine sulfur in Spaceship II emissions extra sulfur. That high in space the sulfur will stay for a long time, produce little acid rain, and could easily protect an entire glacier.
"Then people will say. "VOLCANOES PRODUCE MUCH MORE CO2!!!" And I will agree[...]"
Don't, it's a blatant lie. Volcanoes produce on average 1% of the CO2 we do.
We come in peace.
Take us to your leader.
@kidkaboom22 No, this is a failed project. You either set out to do what you promised, or you fail. SpaceShipOne wasn't acceptable, and the promises of SpaceShipTwo aren't either. Therefore this is a work in progress, or it would be if they weren't trying to take the people who have already paid their deposits and throw them on board a glorified high altitude flight. To me this signals that they've gone into as much debt as they are willing and are throwing in the towel.
Really? Let me get this straight, NASA and private companies launch rocket after rocket and Space Shuttle after Space Shuttle into space with a billion times more fuel polluting the atmosphere and that isn't a problem, but this dinky little thing that is sub orbital is going to end the world? They even admit that they really don't have the data to prove any of this. Give me a break, these people are supposed to be scientists? And 1,000 flights a year? Yeah right... More global warming lies and propaganda, and people wonder why less and less people are taking this global warming/climate change/climate disruption seriously...
Um, ok so several people have noticed that they freely admit that they don't really have the data to make an accurate assesment of the situation. What Im wondering is how many more of these doomsday warnings are coming from "scientists" who are also using inadequate data but refuse to admit it. My moneys on quite a few.
Rex. It matters what kind of fuel you use more than how much...
It also matters that they know the data before making claims like this, they say it "could" have more carbon, but they don't even know. Plus the space shuttle and rockets blow out a load more exhaust so it may not even make a difference. The government using rockets and polluting the air for science is ok to them because it's "righteous". Like I said, it's just more propaganda, they are basing all these results on data they don't even have, it's garbage. It's like people claiming the earth is 6,000 years old with no evidence to back it up. As for space tourism, it's doomed to fail. It's reserved for the super rich and even then they have to actually want to do it, it's risky and would probably only appeal to a small group of the super rich.
They can't predict the weather so I'm supposed to just accept this?
The first post talks down space tourism as nothing more than a vomit comet, but this person has no vision. This is a first step, a baby step if you would. Given time and resources Virgin Galactics vision of space tourism will extend beyond sub-orbital flights to orbital flights and docking with a private space habitat. They will augment space station resupply. Given time and resources they can do anything.
so its being decided for me that space tourism isnt for me. im interested in buying some beachfront property in nevada haha. wow i love how im so free. yaaaaaaaaaay
This is Fantastic News, as it means that the climate is so easily changed that it can be fixed by dumping light reflecting particulate. Fuel composition plans could be adjusted on a daily basis to asure that the global atmospheric heat radiation coefficient is not too warm, not too cold, but just right. We've been saved by Virgin Galactic!
With all the "prescribed burning" of forests that the Forest Service does out west regularly, it is easy to see the gov't doesn't take global warming seriously since burning forests is only beaten by volcanoes for added CO2.
The writings of Helen Caldecott corroborates this material you are about to read.
Man thinks that he is so advanced just because he now has airliner jets and rockets. This idea of wanting to blast-off and jet around had its origins in Nazi-based rocketry inventions during WWII.
One evening, several months ago, I decided to do an in-depth study about the environmental impact of rocketing to space. To my amazement, I discovered that tratospheric balloons could meet most scientific research needs, and do so at a mere 25 miles altitude, where 99.8% of the atmosphere is gone.
If the HUBBLE TELESCOPE could hold itself in place at 25 miles out, it basically would operate just as well as it does at its geosynchronous orbit at 22,236 miles out. But, of course, it can't hold itself at such a low altitude, because it is not BUOYANT. It has to be at at almost 1000X's higher altitude, or it does not work.
Consider the Pollution that was spewed forth into our atmosphere, just to get the Hubble telescope into its present, somewhat stable orbit! How many solid rocket fuel-launched repairs has it taken, each with compiling environmental consequences? For instance, the perchlorate disaster of Lockheed Martin, that has poisoned over 300+ wells in Texas with its rocket testing program.
It appears to me that the environmental destruction which continues to happen with each launch, could all be avoided by utilizing stratospheric, recoverable balloon technology to it fullest potential.
How are we protecting the environment with the technology we are presently using to gather scientific data? Is it really necessary to 'stay the course', when we already have the technical solution to this rocketry pollution?
Aren't these important issues to keep in mind, i.e. how to design the least intrusive device possible, so as to protect our fragile ATMOSPHERIC ENVELOPE from harm? .
Please share this webpage with your colleagues.
(Take out the spaces to go to these links):
http:// darinselby.1hwy. com/floattospace. html
http:// darinselby.1hwy. com/NASASatelliteReEntryDanger. html
http:// darinselby.1hwy. com/MonsterMarsRocket. html
^Congress-approved monster Mars Rocket, that will be FILLED with 177 tons of Aluminum Oxide! (90% propellent for 10% payload.)