Groups Blast Space Start-up for Pedaling Mercury Satellite Thrusters; SpaceX, OneWeb & Planet Labs urged not to use dangerous neurotoxin technology

21 December 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt., Dec. 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Mercury Policy Project joined non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the U.S. and around the globe in blasting Apollo Fusion, Inc. for pedaling mercury satellite thruster technology, as the resulting pollution will have direct implications on human health. They are also urging potential customers—Space X, OneWeb and Planet Labs—to publicly pledge not to use this dangerous neurotoxin.

"While marketing cost savings, Apollo fails to recognize the long term costs and impacts of a new mercury source on human health and the environment," said Michael Bender, MPP Director and International Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. "This flies in the face of not only U.S., but global efforts to reduce mercury pollution.

The group's letter details how the US and governments worldwide have already expended millions to reduce and regulate emissions.  That's because mercury cycles globally and makes its way up the aquatic food chain into humans. 

"Mercury emitted from satellite propulsion systems will eventually find its way back to earth," said Jane William, Director of California Communities Against Toxics. "If mercury is widely used to propel satellites, the resulting releases would significantly increase the global pool of mercury."

Going against the general understanding for decades that mercury was considered 'a dead fuel', Apollo Fusion appears intent on exploiting the lack of regulatory restrictions on mercury in space. Alternatives have been used almost universally for decades. 

Bender also noted that the export of pre-fueled thrusters to international launch facilities may violate the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008, which prohibits, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. § 2611(c)(1)), "the export of elemental mercury from the United States."

The second Conference of the Parties met in Geneva last month to further the Minamata Convention's objective to protect human health.  Over 100 countries have ratified the Convention, which entered into force in 2017.  Yet much more needs to be done, since according to the UN, global mercury emissions rose by 20% between 2010 and 2015.

Accordingly, as part of the upcoming COP3 review of the Minamata Convention, the issue of using mercury as a propulsion fuel is likely to be raised for possible inclusion in the list of prohibited products under the Convention.


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SOURCE Mercury Policy Project