The Future of AI: How Space-Based Data Centres Could Tackle Energy Consumption

With the increasing demand for data storage due to the growth of AI, Europe is exploring the possibility of relocating data centres to space. This unconventional plan is gaining consideration as a potential solution to the expanding need for storage capacity.

The Advanced Space Cloud for European Net Zero Emission and Data Sovereignty (ASCEND) was a 16-month-long study led by Damien Dumestier to investigate the possibility of deploying data centres in space. The study, which received 2 million euros in funding from the European Commission and was coordinated by Thales Alenia Space, concluded that space-based data centres are not only technically feasible but also economically and environmentally viable.

In May, Google implemented a new function within its search engine that generates AI-generated summaries in response to user queries. However, despite its potential benefits, the feature, known as AI Overviews, has raised concerns due to its tendency to produce factually inaccurate information. What’s more, this new feature comes at a high environmental cost, as it reportedly consumes up to 10 times more energy than a standard Google search.

In contrast to traditional on-land data centres, space-based data centres have the potential to be powered by continuous solar energy, as they would be exposed to sunlight 24/7 in space. Additionally, these space-based data centres would not need water for cooling, as space is extremely cold.

However, analysis has indicated that in order for space-based data centres to be environmentally viable, a new kind of launcher with significantly reduced emissions would need to be developed. Furthermore, these data centres would have to rely on rocket fuel to maintain their positions in orbit, which could potentially detract from their environmental friendliness.

ArianeGroup is currently developing an eco-launcher with the potential to address the environmental impact of launch emissions. Despite ongoing efforts, researchers are faced with the challenge of creating a sustainable and economically viable substitute for rocket fuel.

Considering the limitations posed by energy and land resources on Earth, the prospect of establishing data centres in space presents an ambitious but potentially rewarding opportunity.


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