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Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX

Discussion in 'SpaceX' started by pdxgibby, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. pdxgibby

    pdxgibby Member

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    I think what Elon Musk and Tesla are doing to accelerate the growth of sustainable energy is admirable. I think they have accomplished more to reduce our carbon footprint in the past 12 years than any other company. SolarCity is another example of advancing technology for sustainability.

    All of this said, I can't help but cringe every time SpaceX launches another rocket. The amount of pollution introduced and fuel burned may offset all that Tesla and SolarCity are doing?

    I've always thought that space exploration, while cool, is extraordinarily wasteful and damaging to our environment.

    Perhaps I'm too short-sighted, but I just don't see that these technologies work in concert with each other. For all of Elon's preaching about sustainability, how much damage are we doing with each SpaceX rocket launch?
     
  2. mblakele

    mblakele radial cross member

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    As best I understand Musk's views on this, I think he would say that sustainability is not an end in itself. Instead it is a means to an end: the survival and prosperity of humanity. That larger goal requires viable space transportation, so that humanity will not be limited to a single planet. At a planetary scale there are dangers from comets and asteroids, the sort of thing that many think killed off the dinosaurs: see Dinosaur - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for example.

    The discussion at Has SpaceX made mention of the environmental impact of thousands of launches per year? • /r/spacex might also interest you. One commenter suggested that SpaceX launches claw back around 10% of the savings made by Tesla vehicles.

    Something along the lines of a space elevator would be much more efficient, but we aren't quite there yet.
     
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  3. Ludus

    Ludus Member

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    I think this a real issue in public perception and will get larger as SpaceX gets more attention handling human spaceflight.

    I hope they consider working toward zero net carbon rockets.

    This is a pretty straightforward thing. Raptor engines and their future launches will burn methane. In part this is because methane burns cleaner than RP-1 kerosene leaving fewer carbon deposits (coking). In part it's because the same systems can burn methane produced on Mars from water and co2.

    This production on Mars (called ISRU for In Situ Resource Utilization) can also of course be done on earth using solar or other renewable electricity, water for hydrogen and CO2 extracted from the atmosphere/ocean). It's more expensive by far than just using refined natural gas but it is an opportunity to learn better how to do it in preparation for Mars. Fuel is a very small part of rocket launch costs anyway.

    Methane produced this way using Solar electricity and extracted CO2 would be carbon neutral. It would be fair to say these SpaceX rockets launched on distilled sunshine.

    Just like Tesla launched Superchargers with a plan to eventually make them Solar powered (though they mostly aren't now) SpaceX could announce it's plan to make it's rockets carbon neutral without any special timetable or current budget strain.
     
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  4. Ludus

    Ludus Member

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    There was a similar comment by Lisa in the Simpsons "The Musk who fell to earth".

    Even a lot more launches are still a tiny fraction of 1 percent of carbon output so engineers tend to see it as a non-issue.

    To the general public a rocket launch looks like an extravagant use of energy and a source of carbon. It's a symbolic problem a bit like range anxiety. Most Tesla owners rarely if ever take road trips. Solar Superchargers were a brilliant symbolic solution to that symbolic problem. I think Solar Methane for rockets that run on distilled sunshine could be a similar thing.
     

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