Are space launches bad for the en­vi­ron­ment?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Q&A - AC

Space launches can have a hefty car­bon foot­print due to the burn­ing of solid rocket fu­els. Many rock­ets are, how­ever, pro­pelled by liq­uid hy­dro­gen fuel, which pro­duces ‘clean’ wa­ter vapour ex­haust, al­though the pro­duc­tion of hy­dro­gen it­self can cause sig­nif­i­cant car­bon emis­sions. Rocket en­gines re­lease trace gases into the up­per at­mos­phere that con­trib­ute to ozone de­ple­tion, as well as par­ti­cles of soot. Rocket launches are none­the­less rel­a­tively in­fre­quent, mean­ing that their over­all im­pact on our cli­mate re­mains much smaller than avi­a­tion’s. But it’s not just our im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment: ‘space junk’ is a grow­ing con­cern as dis­used satel­lites and other ob­jects ac­cu­mu­late in our planet’s or­bit.

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