Is “Relatively Clean” Spaceflight, Clean Enough?

Cartoon by Alex Bowman

In the span of two weeks, two of the world’s richest men blasted off to suborbital space with the intended goal of promoting commercial spaceflight. This past week, Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos took his trip on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. This prompted questions about the environmental impact of private space travel

The Blue Origin rocket was powered by relatively “clean” liquid hydrogen (even if keeping hydrogen liquid requires an exorbitant amount of energy), but other private rockets are not so clean. Thus promoting the burgeoning industry has drawn a lot of critics.

Bottom Line: While space-bound rockets emit less than the aircraft industry, their emissions have been increasing at nearly 5.6% a year. 

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