Space data centre

Europe wants to place data centres in space and Microsoft wants to place them under the sea

Data centres are expected to consume over 3% of Europe’s electricity demand by 2030

The surge in artificial intelligence (AI) has significantly increased the demand for data centres, essential for the ‘exploding’ tech sector. This necessity has led Europe to consider spatial alternatives for digital storage, aiming to diminish reliance on energy-intensive ground facilities.

The Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emission and Data sovereignty (ASCEND), a 16-month study investigating the viability of deploying data centres in orbit, has reportedly reached a ‘very encouraging‘ conclusion, according to the report.

The ASCEND study, coordinated by Thales Alenia Space for the European Commission and valued at 2 million euros ($2.1 million), asserts the technical, economic, and environmental viability of space-based data centres.

“The idea [is] to take off part of the energy demand for data centres and to send them in space in order to benefit from infinite energy, which is solar energy,” according to a spokesperson for ASCEND.

Data centres are crucial for advancing digitalization; however, they demand substantial electricity and water to operate and cool their servers. The total global electricity consumption from data centres could reach more than 1,000 terrawatt-hours in 2026 – that’s roughly equivalent to the electricity consumption of Japan, as reported by the International Energy Agency.

The ASCEND study is not alone in exploring the potential of orbital data centres. Microsoft, which has already trialed the use of a subsea data centre – positioned 117 feet deep on the seafloor, is collaborating with companies such as Loft Orbital to explore the challenges in executing AI and computing in space.

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