JUN 18, 2019 7:14 PM PDT

How Rocket Launches Impact the Environment

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Rockets are flying cargo into space more often these days than ever before, made possible in part by cost-effective reusable rockets such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 platform. But cost and frequency aside, rockets take advantage of chemical burns to reach outer space, so has anyone ever stopped to think about what this does to the environment here on Earth?

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the most massive operational rocket in existence today, and it uses a rocket fuel comprised of liquid oxygen and RP-1 (a refined type of kerosene). While SpaceX doesn’t publicize the exact specs of its fuels, a quick math calculation can determine that a single Falcon Heavy rocket emits around 1,352 tonnes of carbon dioxide per launch. Seems like a lot, right? But perhaps not…

Comparatively, a typical consumer car dumps approximately 4.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment annually. Based on this connection, we can infer that a single Falcon Heavy emits as much carbon dioxide as around 294 cars on the road per year – not that bad considering that we launch fewer than 100 rockets each year, most of which aren’t of the Falcon Heavy variety.

But carbon dioxide isn’t the only concern when it comes to rockets – so too are the black sooty particles that are left behind, as they can damage the ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation and expose us to more solar radiation.

For the most part, a rocket launch’s impact on the environment is a poorly-studied topic, and additional research on the matter will be valuable as companies look to increase the number of space-centric launches for future science missions and commercial endeavors. For the most part, however, it seems that rockets have less of an impact than the combined number of cars on the road today.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth's Magnetic Field Changing Faster than Previously Thought
AUG 10, 2020
Earth's Magnetic Field Changing Faster than Previously Thought
The Earth's magnetic field is crucial for life on Earth. Generated by the molten iron core 3000 km beneath our plane ...
SEP 25, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
SEP 25, 2020
Colossal Study for the Missing (Anti)Matter
Physicists believe that our observable universe exists in a mirrored configuration: any fundamental particle such as pro ...
OCT 08, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Observe a Supermassive Black Hole Surrounded by Galaxies
OCT 08, 2020
Astronomers Observe a Supermassive Black Hole Surrounded by Galaxies
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an array of four individual telescopes in the ...
OCT 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
OCT 10, 2020
Are There Planets Better for Life than Earth?
Researchers have found at least 24 planets outside of our solar system may be better for life than Earth. Each a little ...
OCT 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Watch the 'Spaghettification' of a Star
OCT 16, 2020
Scientists Watch the 'Spaghettification' of a Star
In work that could help scientists understand how matter behaves when it's close to supermassive black holes, a star has ...
NOV 27, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
NOV 27, 2020
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
A common entity that connects everything from majestically looking galaxies and nebula to the enormously diversified bio ...
Loading Comments...