SpaceX Will Start A Program To Extract Carbon Dioxide Out Of The Atmosphere To Turn It Into Starship Fuel

SpaceX Will Start A Program To Extract Carbon Dioxide Out Of The Atmosphere To Turn It Into Starship Fuel

Featured Image Source: J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter

SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to enable astronauts to build the first sustainable colony on Mars. To achieve it, the company is working to develop a fully-reusable Starship launch system capable of propelling 100 tons of cargo to orbit. Starship is a two-stage launch vehicle, consisting of a spacecraft and a Super Heavy rocket booster. Both stages are powered by Raptor engines that utilize cryogenic liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellant, also known as Methalox.

Super Heavy will be equipped with at least 32 Raptor engines capable of generating over 16 million pounds of thrust. It is designed to become the world’s most powerful operational rocket. Starship will be equipped with three Raptors optimized to navigate in the vacuum of space and three designed for atmospheric flight. A methane-fueled, reusable spacecraft has never been developed before. 

The one-of-a-kind Raptor engines are designed by SpaceX to enable the first Mars settlers to synthesize fuel via In-situ resource utilization. Astronauts could build a propellant plant on the Red Planet to create Raptor engine fuel through the Sabatier process – which involves extracting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the planet’s atmosphere and digging subsurface ice-water to create liquid oxygen and liquid methane to fuel the spacecraft.

Finding a way to capture CO2 from a planet's atmosphere and environment has the potential to improve global warming on Earth and also enable SpaceX to achieve its goal to create a spacefaring civilization. “SpaceX is starting a program to take CO2 [Carbon Dioxide] out of atmosphere & turn it into rocket fuel. Please join if interested,” Musk announced on December 13. “Will also be important for Mars,” he wrote via Twitter. If SpaceX achieves developing carbon capturing technology Starship could become a Carbon neutral rocket long-term.

Developing the technologies to extract Carbon Dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere will be very useful to mitigate Climate Change in our home planet. Musk recently donated $100 Million dollars to an XPRIZE competition that searched for the best proposals for CO2 capturing technology from all over the world. A team of students from Monash University in Australia and Malaysia received $250,000 USD award funded by Musk. “We submitted a BioTechnology proposal that consisted of biologically-assisted carbon capture and conversion methods which focused on the capture of CO2 from the ocean and air via artificial forestry and microalgae cultures in novel designed floating photobioreactors. The biomass produced from these carbon farms will then be utilized downstream, powered by bioenergy, in their transformation into cross-laminated timber, for sustainable buildings, and biochar, a charcoal that can be used for soil amendment,” Chief Executive Officer of the Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion (MC³) team Emily Qiao shared. SpaceX has not provided any public details about its CO2 program, it will be exciting to see what carbon capturing technology SpaceX engineers develop and end up utilizing in the years to come.

Featured Image Source: J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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