What’s the Impact of the Space Industry on Climate Change?

ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket uses a combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for fuel. Image courtesy of ULA.

There is a lot of information about the impact of airplane emissions on global warming. Do rocket emissions have a similar impact?

The stratosphere, containing the ozone layer, is susceptible to pollution from soot and alumina from rocket launches, though more study is needed to estimate the climate impact. Atmosphere diagram courtesy NASA.

Will the burgeoning Space Tourism industry have a big carbon footprint?

What kind of emissions is specific to space launch?

What is the climate concern about spaceflight’s particle emissions?

Are some rocket fuels better or worse than others?

Soyuz rocket plume seen from the International Space Station shows complex diffusion patterns of soot, ice particles, and exhaust gases in the upper atmosphere. Images courtesy NASA / Christina Koch @Astro_Christina

What about reentry of rocket stages and other space debris? Does this affect the atmosphere, too?

Space debris from defunct Starlink satellites reentering over Puerto Rico, February 7, 2022. Credit: Eddie Irizarry/Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe

With the frequency of launches and number of satellites in orbit increasing every year, is this an impending problem? What can be done to mitigate these issues?

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