Europe wants to construct data centers in space, says a study

The rise of artificial intelligence is rapidly increasing demand for data centers to maintain pace with the growing technology sector. Europe, in turn, is increasingly exploring space options for digital storage to cut back its need for energy-hungry facilities on Earth.

Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty, a 16-month study that investigated the feasibility of launching data centers into orbit, has reached a “very encouraging” conclusion, based on project leader Damien Dumestier.

The €2 million ($2.1 million) ASCEND study, coordinated by Thales Alenia Space on behalf of the European Commission, claims that space-based data centers are technically, economically and environmentally feasible.

“The idea [is] to take part of the energy needs of data centers and send them into space to benefit from the infinite energy, namely solar energy,” Dumestier told CNBC.

“Data tsunami”

Data centers are essential for digitalization, but in addition they require significant amounts of electricity and water to power and funky their servers. Global electricity consumption by data centers could exceed 1,000 terawatt hours in 2026 — based on the International Energy Agency, that is roughly comparable to Japan’s electricity consumption.

The industry is on the verge of a “data tsunami wave,” says Merima Dzanic, head of strategy and operations on the Danish Data Center Industry Association.

“AI data centers require about three times more energy than traditional data centers, and that's a problem not only on the energy side but also on the consumption side,” she told CNBC.

What is required is a “completely different approach to building, designing and operating data centers,” Dzanic added.

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The facilities that might be launched into space, based on the study, would orbit at an altitude of around 1,400 kilometers (869.9 miles) – about 3 times the altitude of the International Space Station. Dumestier explained that ASCEND goals to deploy 13 space data center constructing blocks with a complete capability of 10 megawatts in 2036 to achieve the place to begin for the commercialization of cloud services.

Each constructing block – covering 6,300 square metres – can have capability for its own data centre service and will probably be launched in a spacecraft, he said.

To significantly reduce the energy consumption of the digital sector, the goal is to deploy 1,300 constructing blocks by 2050 to achieve 1 gigawatt., based on Dumestier.


The aim of ASCEND was to research the potential and comparative environmental impacts of Space-based data centres support Europe in Become be carbon neutral by 2050.

The study found that to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, a brand new form of launch vehicle would must be developed that produces ten times fewer emissions. ArianeGroup, considered one of the twelve corporations involved within the study, is working to speed up the event of such reusable and environmentally friendly launch vehicles.

The objective is to have the primary eco-launcher operational by 2035 after which to have a service lifetime of 15 years with a purpose to have the large capability needed to understand the project, said Dumestier.

However, Dzanic warned that the somewhat “outlandish” idea of ​​space-based data centers doesn’t completely solve the issue of sustainable energy use. “It is only one piece of the puzzle,” she said.

Michael Winterson, chief executive of the European Data Centre Association, acknowledges that an area data centre would profit from greater efficiency through solar energy without weather-related disruption. However, the centre would require significant amounts of rocket fuel to remain in orbit.

Winterson estimates that even a small 1-megawatt center in low Earth orbit would require about 280,000 kilograms of rocket fuel per yr, leading to costs of about $140 million in 2030 – a calculation based on a big reduction in launch costs that has not yet occurred.

“There will be specialized services that fit this idea, but they will definitely not replace the market,” Winterson said.

“Applications that could be suitable would be very specific, such as military/surveillance, broadcasting, telecommunications and financial trading services. All other services could not be operated competitively from space,” he added in an emailed comment.

Dzanic also expressed some skepticism about security risks and noted, “Space is becoming increasingly politicized and weaponized in different countries, so it's obvious that the type of data you send there has security implications.”

World Leader

ASCEND shouldn’t be the one study examining the potential of orbital data centers. Microsoftwhich previously required the usage of a Underwater data center Placed 36 meters deep on the seafloor, the project is working with corporations like Loft Orbital to explore the challenges of implementing AI and computing in space. Its work is critical to innovation and “lays the foundation for future data management solutions in space,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC.

ASCEND is a possibility for the EU to achieve a competitive advantage within the AI ​​ecosystem, where the bloc currently lags behind the US and China, Dzanic said.

The EU is barely just starting to “wake up, recognise the situation and start financing these projects”, she added.

ASCEND researchers are currently in discussions with the International Space Agency for the subsequent phase, through which they are going to consolidate all the information collected and work on developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

“We want to ensure Europe's data sovereignty, but this type of project can also benefit other countries,” said Dumestier. “We are pushing it forward vigorously because we recognize that it is a promising project. It could become a showcase project for European space development.”

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