Collecting and sharing data
Many communities – rocket launch providers, environmental regulators, atmospheric research scientists and government agencies – need to move forward together on an international level. Discussions on how to build best-practice operations for sustainability needn’t be stifling for space industry growth as potential actions are well within reach.
The greatest contribution each community can make, first off, is the collection and sharing of data. For example, those who build and launch rockets could estimate emissions during their design work and then measure actual emissions for their launch vehicles.
Working with researchers to sample emission plumes in the atmosphere would help develop understanding of the real-world impacts of emissions on the ozone layer. The current lack of these measurements for modern launch vehicles limits the predictive power of atmospheric modelling. Making data easily accessible to researchers is necessary for meaningful progress.
To evaluate emissions at early stages of rocket development, we also need accurate models of the impact emissions have on the atmosphere. This is where coordination between the space industry and the ozone research community is essential – each community holds a complementary puzzle piece, both of which together inform regulatory discussion.
Creating sustainable global rocket launches is going to need coordination across aerospace companies, scientists and governments: it is achievable, but we need to start now. This is our chance to get ahead of the game.
Laura Revell, Associate Professor in Environmental Physics, University of Canterbury; Michele Bannister, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy, School of Physical and Chemical Sciences Te Kura Matū, University of Canterbury, and Tyler Brown, Researcher, School of Physical and Chemical Sciences Te Kura Matū, University of Canterbury