Through carbon capture, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced a program to create rocket fuel. He is even offering a $100 million Carbon Removal X-Prize for new carbon capture technologies to help make it happen.
Elon Musk is the founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.
Is there another reason behind SpaceX’s carbon capture program?
Many have criticized Musk for his space missions, saying these missions do little to benefit the Earth.
In fact, in 2021, SpaceX had 31 launches.
It is important to note that just one rocket launch emits over 300 tons of carbon into the atmosphere — staying there for years. Some flights are just six minutes long!
Musk believes that CO2 capture to use as fuel is the solution to:
1.) Improving the climate here on Earth; and
2.) Making a settlement on Mars possible (which is Musk’s ultimate goal).
Why is SpaceX offering a $100M prize for new carbon capture technology?
Believe it or not, making rocket fuel with carbon isn’t the tricky part. Capturing CO2 is, which is the reason behind the prize.
Direct air capture is so expensive that it can cost between $600 and $800 per ton.
To win, “teams must demonstrate a working solution at a scale of at least 1000 tons removed per year; model their costs at a scale of 1 million tons per year; and show a pathway to achieving a scale of gigatons per year in future.”
Does Carbon Capture work?
Not everyone is on board with carbon capture. Even Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a strong supporter of green initiatives, is skeptical. Others are less focused on carbon capture technologies and more interested in the carbon credit industry, which is booming.
But Musk disagrees.
If capturing CO2 becomes more accessible and affordable, we can help life here on Earth while exploring space.
Musk is currently Time Magazine’s Person of the year.