Space flight and global warming

Virgin Galactic’s spaceflights won’t be as green as advertised

The suborbital flights soon to be offered by Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture, won’t be as eco-friendly as the company claims.

A simulation study published in Geophysical Research Letters found the solid-fuel rockets used on Virgin’s spacecraft are remarkably efficient in terms of carbon-dioxide emissions, but the black soot they will release into the stratosphere could have a global warming effect 140,000 times worse than their carbon output, according to A summary of the same study, published in the journal Nature, said 1,000 spaceflights a year “could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 degree Celsius and reduce polar sea-ice by 5 [percent] to 15 percent.”

Virgin Galactic has already taken $70 million in deposits from 536 passengers, who were charged $200,000 for three future minutes in space. The company has yet to confirm a launch date.