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Commercial Spaceflight Federation Comments and Fact Sheet Regarding Recent Article for Geophysical Research Letters on Rocket Emissions

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation and its member organizations, including five providers of commercial reusable suborbital spaceflight services, supports the kind of scientific inquiry that led to the recent Ross et al. Geophysical Research Letters paper titled, “Potential Climate Impact of Black Carbon Emitted by Rockets.” The commercial spaceflight sector aspires to good environmental stewardship.

In an attached fact sheet (click to download), the Commercial Spaceflight Federation has clarified several assumptions used by Ross et al in their model-based analysis. Ross et al may have dramatically overestimated the actual environmental impact of reusable suborbital vehicles.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, working with its scientific advisory panel, the Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG), and its suborbital spaceflight provider members, is exploring ways the industry can provide research opportunities to document the actual levels of emissions made by suborbital launches through ground test and in-flight experiments. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is also assembling a panel of independent experts to provide recommendations to the industry and researchers.

The suborbital vehicles now in development will significantly benefit scientific research, particularly climate science, by allowing previously unparalleled access to parts of the upper atmosphere where atmospheric phenomena concerning global change may take place. Toward this end, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and its suborbital provider members are working with NASA and NOAA on programs to deploy these vehicles and their valuable capabilities as new platforms for scientific instruments. At industry workshops held at the American Geophysical Union annual conference and the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers conferences, the industry received an enthusiastic response from scientists eager to use these new vehicles in their research.

The commercial spaceflight industry looks forward to the coming era of commercially reusable suborbital spaceflight and research, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation commits to a proactive stewardship of the atmosphere through which these vehicles will fly.

Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, commented, “The commercial spaceflight industry is deeply committed to protecting the environment and the priceless planet that we call home. Indeed, the ‘overview effect’ of traveling to space is well-known. Those who are blessed with seeing our fragile blue marble from space always return with a reinvigorated passion to protect it.” Alexander added, “Rocket launches are critical for understanding the environment. The NASA and NOAA space programs that provide us with critical atmospheric and climate data were all launched on rockets and would not have been possible without them. Now the new commercial suborbital vehicles in development will allow access to space that the science community has never before had, including for atmospheric and climate data that was previously out of reach.”

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To download an attached fact sheet clarifying several assumptions used by Ross et al in their model-based analysis, please click here [pdf].

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