Forget The Ocean Or Even Planet Earth, EU Wants To Build A Data Center In Space

data center
The European Union is looking to send data centers into space in an effort to fight climate change. Thales Alenia Space is spearheading a study called ASCEND, which is part of the EU's "Horizon Europe" initiative.

The need for digitalization means that data centers around the world are growing at a never before seen pace. In turn, it is having a tremendous impact on both energy and the environment. This has led the European Union to seek out alternatives for future data centers, in an effort to reduce global warming. ASCEND, or Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty is a feasibility study for data centers to be placed in orbit.

Thales Alenia Space, a joint company between Thales and Leonardo, was chosen to lead the ASCEND study. Its purpose is to determine the viability of installing data center stations in low-Earth orbit, powered by solar power plants generating several hundred megawatts. ASCEND is just one of many projects currently being looked at to help meet Europe's Green Deal goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

data center space
Artist rendering of data center in space from Thales Alenia Space

According to Thales, the first objective of the study will be to determine if the carbon emissions from the production and launch of these infrastructures will be substantially lower than the emissions generated by ground-based data centers, or even Microsoft's ocean-based Project Natick. The second objective will be to prove that it is possible to create the required launch solution and to establish the deployment and operability of these spaceborne data centers using robotic assistance technologies currently in development in Europe.

As of right now, the ASCEND study has been funded with a $2 million Euro budget. It is important to note that this is simply an exploratory study, and may end up finding that creating a space-based data center is not feasible for a number of reasons. Factors such as the cost of launching such an endeavor, maintaining it, and overall efficiency will all come into play along with determining just how eco-friendly a project of this magnitude would actually be.

Top Image Credit: European Commission: Defence Ministry and Space