NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) makes use of powerful solid rocket motors.
Credit: NASA


The Earth’s stratosphere is under assault by rocket engine emissions and also polluted by reentering space debris. While space transportation plays a vital and increasing role in Earth’s economic system, rockets uniquely emit gases and particles directly into the middle and upper atmosphere. That exhaust from hundreds of launches accumulates and alters atmospheric radiation patterns.

An Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship plunges into the Earth’s atmosphere in a fiery finale. Vaporization of discarded space hardware equals dust production – a process that is not well understood.
Credit: ESA/NASA

This troublesome outlook is exasperated given the predicted pace of rocket launches by increasing numbers of nations in the coming decades.

Here’s my new story on this topic, posted today at:

Spaceflight Pollution: How Do Rocket Launches and Space Junk Affect Earth’s Atmosphere?

By Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist

November 27, 2017 06:35am ET


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