HThere are data centers behind every Netflix movie night, every zoom meeting and every use of a search engine. They transport, transform and store the masses of data exchanged. This requires electrical energy – according to the Bitkom industry association, the data centers in Germany alone require more electricity than the whole of Berlin consumes. According to estimates, the systems could be responsible for one hundredth of the electricity consumption worldwide. This thirst for energy is growing by around ten percent every year, which is accompanied by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, says Yves Durand, head of technology at French satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space. “It’s going to be a real problem,” he says. His industry has a solution for this: Durand envisages shooting data centers into space.
The idea behind this orbital outsourcing makes sense in principle. According to the EU Commission’s “Green Deal”, the European economy should not emit any greenhouse gases by 2050, so it must cover its energy requirements from CO2-neutral sources. But the resources for this are limited in densely populated Europe: solar systems need space, nuclear power plants need cooling water and wind turbines need the tolerance of local residents. In space, on the other hand, there is space and solar energy in abundance, while cooling the hardware – which also requires some effort for the operators of modern large computers – is also easier. Mainframes and cloud servers are also natural facilities for remote operations. After all, it doesn’t matter where you calculate, and your input and output can be sent wirelessly.