Former SpaceX Engineers Develop “Vegetarian Rocket Engine” To Combat Climate Change


Brad Hartwig, a former SpaceX engineer, has embarked on a new venture that combines his passion for space exploration and his dedication to address climate change. Hartwig, along with his team, recently founded Arbor, a startup specializing in the development of power plants designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Their innovative technology, which Hartwig refers to as a “vegetarian rocket engine,” leverages their experience in the aerospace industry to combat the pressing environmental issues we face today.

Key Takeaway

Former SpaceX engineer Brad Hartwig and his team at Arbor have developed an innovative solution to combat climate change. Through their groundbreaking “vegetarian rocket engine,” they are repurposing technology from the aerospace industry to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By converting waste biomass into syngas and utilizing turbo machinery, Arbor’s power plants generate electricity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A Journey from Space to Earth

Hartwig’s journey in engineering and entrepreneurship has been nothing short of remarkable. From building a pedal-driven helicopter as a high schooler to contributing to the engines of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, his dedication to pushing boundaries has always been evident. However, along the way, Hartwig realized that he wanted to personally contribute to solving the climate crisis.

With a desire to make a tangible impact, Hartwig founded Arbor, inspired by his experiences and his conviction that innovative technology could be harnessed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Arbor’s groundbreaking solution involves converting waste biomass into syngas, a process that ultimately generates pure CO2. This compressed gas is then utilized to produce electricity through turbo machinery, similar to the ones employed in SpaceX’s rockets.

Applying Aerospace Expertise to Climate Tech

Hartwig initially wondered if his experience at SpaceX would be relevant to his quest in the climate tech field. However, he soon discovered that much of the technology developed for space exploration could be repurposed to combat climate change. The turbo machinery used to generate power and the cryogenic oxygen distillers that supply the oxycombustion unit are just some examples of how Arbor draws inspiration from the world of rockets.

Additionally, Hartwig’s time on a search and rescue team during wildfire emergencies provided valuable insights. Witnessing the vast amounts of biomass resulting from forest-thinning practices, intended to reduce the risk of wildfires, inspired Hartwig to explore alternative uses for this biomass. By incorporating it as a fuel source for Arbor’s power plants, they can effectively reduce waste and further contribute to sustainable energy production.

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