Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Jeff Bezos says his suborbital space flight Tuesday reinforced his commitment to fighting climate change, but growth of this kind of travel planned by multiple companies would also add new sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The big picture: The flight comes as Bezos' Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are all planning significant increases in launches.

By the numbers: S&P Global Sustainable1 offered some perspective on the amount of fuel burned and corresponding emissions from commercial space launches using conventional fuels.

The sustainability intelligence provider said it's roughly akin to...

  • One car traveling 1.8 million miles.
  • The average travel of 157 cars in the U.S. per year (based on Transportation Department data).
  • "A full passenger roundtrip flight in commercial aircraft from London to New York."

Yes, but: Bezos' Blue Origin rocket used a mix of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that produces water vapor, not CO2, when burned.

  • However, water vapor is also a planet-warming gas, while hydrogen production can also produce substantial CO2 emissions, depending on the process used. Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment.

How it works: Steven Bullock of S&P Global Sustainable1, in a statement to Axios, said the firm based its analysis on disclosed data from launches of Space X's Falcon 9 rockets.

  • "Although different, both SpaceX Falcon and Virgin Galactic use hydrocarbon-based fuel, while New Shepard uses a mix of liquid hydrogen and oxygen," said Bullock. "With all three talking about ramping up space travel, we wanted to indicate the GHG emissions for hydrocarbon-based fuel types — as two out of the three produce Scope 1 CO2 emissions."
  • "However it is worth noting that the source of the hydrogen fuel is unclear, i.e., if it is blue or brown hydrogen, produced from fossil fuel or renewables and there is no disclosure from Blue Origin on this."

Our thought bubble: Axios space reporter Miriam Kramer notes that the number of launches each year is increasing but still relatively low.

  • In the future, however — if companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have their way — launches could increase dramatically, she notes. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic envisions 400 flights per year.
  • Reckoning with exactly how bad emissions from rocket launches are today could pay off in the future as more launches occur worldwide.

Reality check: Even a major increase in space flight would not create a big greenhouse gas emissions source compared to CO2 output from power, industry and other forms of transport, including traditional commercial air travel.

  • But it's another emitting sector at a time when emissions steep cuts are needed to keep Paris Agreement goals within reach.
  • The launches can also harm stratospheric ozone.

Of note: Bezos is a major funder of efforts to fight global warming, unveiling the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund in early 2020 and in November announcing initial grants totaling $791 million across 16 organizations.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that combustion of Blue Origin's fuel produces water vapor (not CO2 as implied) and has been updated with new comments explaining how S&P arrived at its conclusions.

Go deeper

Jul 22, 2021 - Podcasts

Virgin Galactic astronaut Sirisha Bandla on science and space tourism

Space travel once unified Americans with the excitement of scientific discovery and wonderment. But the recent suborbital trips headlined by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have been much more divisive, with critics accusing the billionaires of taking pricey joyrides while the Earth below them literally burns.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with engineer and Virgin Galactic executive Sirisha Bandla, who flew alongside Branson, to better understand what space tourism could also mean for the future of science.

Pelosi says it's her "plan" to appoint GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Jan. 6 committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that it is her "plan" to appoint Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to the House select committee investigating the deadly Jan 6. Capitol riots.

Why it matters: Pelosi's statement to ABC's "This Week" comes after she rejected two of the five Republican appointments offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

⛳️: Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

📺: The Olympic events to watch today

🏊: Athlete spotlight — When to watch swimming star Katie Ledecky

🏀: U.S. Men's basketball suffers first Olympic loss since 2004

🤖: The robot Olympics

🚨: Heat wave brings scorching temperatures to Tokyo Olympics

🎤: Meet the new faces of NBC's Olympics coverage

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage