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Sustainable Satellite ManufacturinG

UKSA Space Cluster Microcredentials


Sector Sustainability

  • Understand Sustainability Across the Supply Chain: Students should have an understanding of sustainability considerations spanning the entire supply chain in the space sector, including launch, spaceport creation, and data management.
  • Analyse Environmental Impact of Launch Operations: Gain insights into the environmental impact of space launch operations, including factors such as rocket propellants, emissions, and the effects on the Earth's atmosphere. Understand the sustainability challenges and potential solutions in this phase.
  • Examine Social and Environmental Impact of Spaceport Creation: Understand the potential environmental and social impacts associated with the establishment and operation of spaceports.
  • Analyse Data Center Sustainability: Analyse the sustainability challenges related to data centers in the space sector, including power requirements, cooling systems, and energy efficiency.

Block 4 - Learning Objectives

The Space SUpply Chain

Launch: Involves the development, testing, and operation of launch vehicles capable of carrying payloads into space. Rockets, or launch vehicles, are the technology that provides the necessary thrust to escape Earth's gravitational pull and deploy satellites into their designated orbits.Key Components of Rocket Systems:

  • Propulsion: Rockets use engines powered by chemical propellants to generate thrust. The choice of propellant affects the rocket's performance and environmental impact.
  • Stages: Most rockets are multi-staged, with each stage containing its own engines and fuel. Stages are jettisoned as their fuel is depleted, reducing the mass the rocket needs to carry.
  • Payload: The payload is the satellite or group of satellites the rocket is designed to deliver into space. It is protected during launch by a fairing, which is jettisoned once the rocket exits the atmosphere.

Focus on Launch & Rockets

  • Types of Propellants: Rockets use various propellants, including liquid hydrogen and oxygen, kerosene (RP-1), and solid chemicals. Each has distinct environmental impacts.
  • Emissions: Combustion of these propellants releases various pollutants, including CO2, water vapor, black carbon, and other particulate matter into the atmosphere.
Key Points:
  • Hydrocarbon Fuels: Kerosene-based fuels (e.g., RP-1) produce significant CO2 and black carbon emissions, contributing to global warming and atmospheric pollution.
  • Hydrogen Fuel: Liquid hydrogen emits primarily water vapor, which, at high altitudes, can contribute to the greenhouse effect and affect ozone layers.
  • Solid Rocket Propellants: Release chlorine compounds that can deplete the ozone layer, along with other particulates that impact atmospheric chemistry.

Environmental Impact of Rocket PRopellants

Atmospheric Layers Affected:

  • Troposphere: Most rocket emissions occur here, with CO2 and particulates contributing to climate change.
  • Stratosphere: Emissions, especially from solid rockets, can deplete ozone. Water vapor from launches can also accumulate and affect atmospheric chemistry.
Impact on Climate and Environment:
  • Global Warming Potential: CO2 and black carbon from rocket launches contribute to the greenhouse effect.
  • Ozone Depletion: Certain chemicals in rocket exhaust can reduce ozone molecules, weakening Earth's protective layer against UV radiation.

Effects of Emissions on the Earth's Atmosphere

  • Spaceports are ground-based facilities designed for launching and receiving spacecraft, integral to space exploration and satellite deployment.
    • Their development involves extensive land use, infrastructure construction, and operational activities that have potential environmental and social impacts.
    • Creating a spaceport includes site selection, construction, and management of launch pads, control centers, and support infrastructure.
    • Spaceports are designed to support specific types of launch vehicles, requiring close collaboration between spaceport developers and launch service providers to ensure compatibility and operational efficiency.


  • Operational Frequency
    • The number of spaceports is increasing globally due to the growing interest in space activities, understanding these impacts is crucial for sustainable development and community welfare.
    • Global Network: The development of spaceports in strategic locations worldwide supports a global network of launch options, increasing accessibility and redundancy for launch services
    • Capacity and Flexibility: The availability of multiple spaceports enhances the capacity and flexibility of launch operations, reducing bottlenecks and accommodating a diverse range of missions.
    • Cost Efficiency: Efficient integration of launch services with spaceport operations can lead to cost reductions, making space access more affordable for a broader range of stakeholders.

Ground Segment

Key Environmental Concerns:

  • Land Use: Construction can lead to habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and changes in land cover.
  • Resource Consumption: Significant amounts of materials, water, and energy are required for building and operating spaceports.
  • Pollution: Construction and operation can produce air, water, and soil pollution, including emissions from rocket launches and infrastructure activities.
Mitigation Strategies:
  • Implementing green construction practices.
  • Minimising footprint by utilizing existing infrastructure where possible.
  • Adopting sustainable waste management and pollution control technologies.

Environmental Impacts of Spaceport Construction

Key Social Concerns:

  • Community Displacement: Construction may require relocating communities, impacting their livelihoods and access to natural resources.
  • Economic Impact: While spaceports can bring investment and job opportunities, the benefits may not always evenly distribute, leading to social inequality.
  • Cultural and Heritage Sites: Development can threaten local cultural sites and heritage, impacting community identity and heritage preservation.
Engagement and Compensation:
  • Engaging with local communities early and throughout the development process.
  • Ensuring fair compensation and providing support for displaced individuals.
  • Investing in local infrastructure and community development projects.

Social Impacts of Spaceport Construction

Challenge: The increasing number of satellites launched into orbit raises concerns over space debris, posing risks to operational satellites and the sustainability of space activities.Solution: Enforcing end-of-life management policies for satellites, such as deorbiting protocols or moving them to a graveyard orbit. Promoting the development and use of satellite technologies that minimize debris creation and enhance the long-term sustainability of orbital environments.

Space Debris

Challenge: Construction and operation of spaceports can have significant environmental footprints.Solution: Designing spaceports with green infrastructure, including the use of renewable energy sources, low-impact construction materials, and integration of environmental conservation measures. Implementing carbon-neutral operations and restoration of natural habitats affected by construction activities.Community Involvement: Local Workforce Development: Creating educational and training programs to prepare the local workforce for new opportunities in the space sector. Public Awareness and Transparency: Keeping the public informed about spaceport activities, environmental monitoring, and mitigation efforts.

Sustainable Spaceport Development & Operations

Challenge: Traditional rocket launches contribute to atmospheric pollution and carbon emissions.Solution: Development of rockets using eco-friendly fuels, such as bio-propane, which significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Adoption of reusable rocket technologies to minimise waste and environmental impact.

Eco-Friendly Launch Operations:

Sustainability Launch & Operations

Operations: Satellite operations produces a range of data that must be stored.

    • The command and control data from the satellite allows operators to control the satellite and track the performance of its systems. Data management services depend on the quality and continuity of data provided by space assets.
    • Payload data is produced from one or more systems on the satellite that relate to the overall purpose of that satellite.
Value Creation:Applications: Once the data is on the ground it is stored and then processed in a huge variety of ways to create products and services both for other businesses and direct to consumer.
  • The processed data supports a wide range of applications, from weather forecasting and global communications to disaster response and climate monitoring, highlighting the end-to-end value of the space supply chain.
  • Innovation and New Services: The demand for space-derived data drives innovation in data analytics, cloud computing, and AI, leading to the development of new products and services that further integrate the space supply chain.

Focus ON Operations & Applications

Challenge: Data centers require significant amounts of water for cooling purposes, impacting local water resources.Solution: Deploy water-efficient cooling technologies, such as dry cooling and recycled water systems, and engage in water conservation practices.

Water Usage

Challenge: The carbon footprint of data centers is a growing concern due to reliance on non-renewable energy sources.Solution: Transition to green energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Implement carbon offset programs and invest in renewable energy projects.

Carbon Footprint

Challenge: Cooling constitutes a significant portion of energy use in data centers, needed to prevent overheating of equipment.Solution: Utilise innovative cooling techniques, such as liquid cooling, hot/cold aisle containment, and the use of ambient air cooling in suitable climates.

Cooling Requirememts

Challenge: Large data centers consume vast amounts of electricity, contributing to high operational costs and environmental impact.Solution: Implement energy-efficient technologies and designs, such as advanced cooling systems, energy-efficient servers, and the use of renewable energy sources to power operations.

Energy Consumption

Sustainability Applications & data

  • Reduced Operational Costs:
    • Lower energy and water usage decrease operational expenses over time.
  • Environmental Protection:
    • Minimises the ecological footprint of data center operations, contributing to global sustainability goals.
    • Minimizing the carbon footprint and ecological disruption of launch activities and spaceport operations.
  • Corporate Responsibility:
    • Enhances brand reputation and aligns with increasing consumer and regulatory expectations for environmental stewardship.
  • Enhanced Longevity of Space Activities:
    • Implementing debris mitigation strategies ensures the long-term usability of valuable orbital regions.
  • Alignment with Global Sustainability Goals: Demonstrates commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible use of space, aligning with international sustainability objectives.

Benefits of Sustainable PRactices Across the Sector

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