back to article ESA: space tourism greener than ordinary airline flights

Suborbital rocketplane flights of the type planned by Virgin Galactic - and other nascent space-tourism ventures - would have a lower carbon burden than ordinary airline journeys, according to the European Space Agency. Flight International reports that a preliminary ESA study indicates less CO2-equivalent emissions per …


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  1. HFoster


    Isn't (most) liquid rocket propellant low carbon (the current hot word for the greenies)?

    Nascent puritanical killjoys, the lot of them. Bastards. Utter, utter bastards. Hanging's too good for the likes of them *fume*

  2. Ru


    Liquid hydrogen/oxygen obviously is, but it takes a significant amount of energy to create the stuff in the first place.

    Also consider that many X prize contestants don't run on this sort of mix; many use something carbon-based for the fuel.

  3. Richard

    Low CO2 footprint

    They're probably right on that score, but rocket fuel isn't exactly eco-friendly once you get away from the liquid oxygen/hydrogen blends.

    The Kazakhs have been whinging about it for years.

  4. goggyturk

    Don't forget...

    White Knight (or whatever the carrier plane is / will be) runs on regular jet fuel to get the rocket up to its launch altitude, so the journey isn't entirely carbon neutral.

  5. Eddie

    Well duh....

    They travel all of 200 miles, for 10 minutes or so - only the first part of which is powered - of course it's going to be lower carbon than a 2000 mile, 6 hour, fully powered, trans-atlantic jet flight...

    Any chance of passenger emissions per kilometer comparisons?

  6. Misha Gale

    upper atmosphere

    It's been my understanding that the problem with emissions from aircraft is not so much the quantity of greenhouse gases (which is comparatively low*), but where they are emitted. CO2 from a car will be partly sequestered by the trees and other ground-level carbon sinks. Planes leave their CO2 high in the atmosphere, where is contributes most to the greenhouse effect, and can't be scrubbed by the plant life.

    On this basis, isn't a rocket plane, which goes even higher than a jet airliner, that much less green?

    * Low-cost airlines are keen to point out that planes account for only 2% of the global carbon footprint

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meaningless comparisons

    Does this take into account the amount of carbon emitted since people started to think about and develop craft for space tourism? You'd also have to factor in the equivalent for air travel too (pre-Wright brothers etc.)... or for that matter before non-animal propulsion. In fact, it's impossible because both air and space travel have shared, though not identical, histories and have borrowed technology and ideas from each other. Not to mention the fact that the sole reason for Virgin Galactic is for tourism, whereas a 500-seater plane is not just transporting people (or other baggage) for tourism.

    Honestly, it winds me up when people, particularly those of the two-faced, industry-related "we're giving something back to the world at no extra expense just out of the goodness of our hearts-yes I do have a heart not a stone" marketing departments, try to fob people off, distracting them from the real issues by talking about "off-setting" and "carbon footprints". If they actually gave a damn, they'd spend less time talking, and more time doing something about the environment. So whoop-de-doo, Virgin Galactic is green - Virgin would be a hell of a lot greener if they'd reduced their train prices (not to mention make them cleaner, safer, and on time) to encourage people to use the trains instead of their cars.

    Probably preaching to the wrong bunch here. Coals. Newcastle.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not so meaningless comparisons

    After all, what is for the elite (or at least those with very deep pockets) today, in a few years time could end up being for everyone. After all, if they build another space port, what's to stop them from flying from one space port to another?

  9. Ian Halstead

    One way trip to space with luck

    Q: How many passengers on a wide-body transatlantic jet?

    A: Hundreds usually

    Q: How many on a Virgin space ship?

    A: Ohhh I get it...

    Footprint per person buggers it up a bit. Hopefully they'll design a rocket not capable of re-entry. Hang on, there's a Paris angle there...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Point Missed...

    Perhaps you'd like to read it all again...

    two small jet engines on the carrier @ 60 mins and one rubber/Nox rocket @ 30 seconds. IS GREENER than a Fucking Jumbo flying for 12 Hours with four fucking huge engines! talk about bloody obvious. Stop arguing its true. just understand it! and accept it! Funnily enough even when you do the maths for 140 passanger verses 6 passangers its still 'greener' !! ie volume of fuel used per passanger minute. hence the report.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Greenhouse gas?

    Water is a greenhouse gas and is therefore eco-unfriendly.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Even greener...

    ...would be to not waste resources taking pointless joyrides into space at all. Talk about an ego-trip...

  13. HFoster

    Re: Greenhouse gas?


    Let's see how long it takes the hippies to jump on that.

  14. peter


    Surely if this leads to technology enabling the hop out of heavy thick air for London Sydney trips, then it's a good thing. Because the future technology will quickly cover the testing phase in emissions if it works.

    Same as as Prius may be a crap car, but one generation creates the next, so research into batteries etc has funding. Eventualy you get a massive payback from the drivers or flyers of tomorrow using the tech covering any false starts or prototypes.

    Plus anyone who stands in the way of space exploration just makes my heart sink right to the floor. The idea of greens holding it back is enough to get me mad (in the Groucho Marx imagined argument way).

  15. Anonymous Coward

    So I dive into the article...

    ...without reading the author's name, and hit: "So there's nothing counter-intuitive about a ballistic flight emitting less exhaust overall than a normal in-atmosphere one..." and immediately think: Lewis!! - and sure enough, a glance to the byline shows it is he. You're almost as epic a Lewis as Hamilton, my friend...

  16. Clive Harris

    Prius envy?

    >>Same as as Prius may be a crap car, but...<<

    Sounds like someone's suffering from Prius Envy.

    Don't worry, Peter, if you work hard and save for long enough, maybe you''ll be able to get one of your own, so you can stop slagging them off. Then you'll know the justifiable feeling of superiority as your "Smugmobile" glides effortlessly past those rusting products of obsolete technology queued at the petrol pump.

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