Study: Space Tourism Could Pollute Skies

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 22 (UPI) — A decade of space tourism flights would cause climate change by putting as much soot into the atmosphere as current global aviation does, U.S. researchers say.

A study suggests emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would remain high in the stratosphere, possibly altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone, reported Friday.

“There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact,” says Martin Ross, an atmospheric scientist at the Aerospace Corp. in Los Angeles and an author of the study.

In the next three years, space tourism companies say they expect to make up to two launches per day.

Several private space-flight companies, such as Virgin Galactic, are contemplating using hybrid rocket engines that ignite synthetic hydrocarbon with nitrous oxide, Ross says.

These hybrid engines emit more black carbon — soot –than a normal kerosene and oxygen engine, he says.

“Rain and weather wash out these particles from the atmosphere near Earth’s surface, but in the stratosphere there isn’t any rain and they can remain for three to 10 years,” says Michael Mills, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., another author of the paper.

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