A new analysis from travel website Champion Traveler shows how the burgeoning space tourism industry favored by many U.S. billionaires could severely worsen the planetary climate crisis by emissions that, in one rocket launch, are equal to nearly 400 transatlantic flights.
While the number of rockets blasting off from Earth's surface to the stratosphere—and beyond—are still low, recent reporting indicates there is a desire on the part of space tourism and shipping company SpaceX head Elon Musk to increase that number.
"As rocket launches become more common and space tourism accelerates in you the reader's lifetime, as most experts predict, companies such as SpaceX will need to consider the environmental impact of their launches at scale," wrote Champion Traveler.
Falcon 9 delivers 60 Starlink satellites to orbit pic.twitter.com/Vgw10m0Tkz— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
The travel company's researchers ran the data and found that:
- The SpaceX Falcon 9 B burns 29,600 gallons (112,184 Kg) of highly refined kerosene
- 3.0 Kg of CO2 goes into the atmosphere per Kg of Kerosene burned
- 112,184 Kg x 3 Kg / CO2 = roughly 336,552 Kg of CO2 per Falcon 9 launch
Champion Traveler compared the data to other sources of travel emissions and found that one SpaceX rocket flight, expelling 336.5 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere, is equal to 395 one-way transatlantic flights at about 850 kilograms of CO2 on a roundtrip flight or driving 73 cars for one year, with each emitting 4,600 kilograms of CO2.
Musk's desire for an uptick in spaceflights is part of the billionaire's scheme to colonize Mars, according to Mic:
According to Musk, it would take about 1,000 SpaceX Starship rockets to transport all of the necessary cargo and crew to Mars. Then, he suggested, it would take about 20 years to set up all the necessary infrastructure to get the city up and running.
It's not just SpaceX—as Champion Traveler reports, "between Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, NASA, and other, emerging non-US space agencies, the number of rocket launches will only increase each year."
With more rockets likely to enter the skies in recent decades, emissions will also increase if an alternative fuel source is not found.