Collaboration between different industries: The role of space infrastructure in green hydrogen national strategies.

Authors: Theodora Varelidi Strati, Santiago Enriquez

The space sector has seen expansive growth over recent years. With it, the role of space agencies has also evolved. Besides interacting with the private sector, they have also expanded their involvement within different industries. In addition, space-based technologies are playing an impactful role in addressing societal issues. The United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals to tackle such challenges, including the “UN SDG 7 – Clean and Affordable Energy.” The aim is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (United Nations, 2020).

Importance of green hydrogen

Environmental challenges have made decarbonizing the energy system a priority. A major contributor to this effort could be green hydrogen, the product of electrolysis from renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy (Scott, 2020). The process to make hydrogen seems relatively simple with only a handful of ‘ingredients’: an electrolyzer breaks down water into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity. The industry, however, needs to tackle some obstacles before achieving commercialization of the fuel. More specifically, the electrolyzers are in short supply, and electricity from renewable sources is still very costly (Morton, 2020). Nonetheless, with the cost of renewable sources decreasing, the latter looks more promising. The price has already fallen by 40% since 2015, which will, in turn, affect the value of green hydrogen by 2050 (Scott, 2020). As a result, green hydrogen has the potential to become very prominent in achieving net-zero emissions. Furthermore, it has various applications in different sectors, such as transportation, and could replace the hydrogen already used (grey hydrogen 1) for industrial purposes. 

The advantages of the fuel have led many countries to publish green hydrogen roadmaps. According to IHS Markit, “Investment in green hydrogen production is set to exceed $1billion a year by 2023” (Scott, 2020). An example of a green hydrogen facility is the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field in Japan. It will have the capacity to generate 1,200 Nm3 of hydrogen per hour (Robbins, 2020), which corresponds to the electrical consumption of approximately 150 households (Yamane, 2019).

Green hydrogen & Space infrastructure

Collaboration between different industries has a significant impact on the advancement of technologies, and in particular, it could accelerate the commercialization of green hydrogen. In each phase of the development process, technologies require infrastructure for testing before launching to the market. In order to evolve and scale up green hydrogen, a new and innovative platform is essential. At the same time, existing R&D infrastructure, which serves scientific research, technology development, and scale-up of industrial processes, can be utilized. This infrastructure is available in public-funded research councils but also in mission-oriented agencies, such as space agencies. The question thus arises as to the role that current space infrastructure could play in the blooming hydrogen technology and the extent to which such a collaboration would be mutually beneficial. A case example of a space agency devoted to the establishment of a hydrogen economy is DLR.

Case Study: DLR 

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the institute that conducts research and development in the fields of aerospace, energy, and transportation in Germany and undertakes statutory tasks in the space sector on behalf of the German Government. In addition, DLR acts as an advisor regarding german space policy. DLR has approximately thirty sites in Germany, where different facilities and institutes dedicated to space research and development activities are located. In the context of the National Hydrogen Strategy that has been launched by the German government in 2020, DLR is devoting part of its space facilities to develop and test technologies to produce, store, and use hydrogen. One example of this “infrastructure repurpose” can be observed in the DRL´s project H2ORIZON 2. The aim of this project is to develop highly innovative technologies to generate green hydrogen from wind power, store it and make it available for various areas of application, one of which will be space engine research. In this sense, green hydrogen will be used to test DLR rockets that are being developed for the European Ariane Program. At the DRL facilities in Lampoldshausen, Baden Württemberg, hydrogen will be produced through electrolysis processes and using the clean energy provided by a wind park situated close to the DLR facilities. Part of this hydrogen will be used to test rocket fuels and the rest will be redirected to other non-space sectors (mobility, heat sector, etc.).


Image 1: Process of generating, storing and distributing clean hydrogen in the context of the Project H2ORIZON (

Through the H2ORIZON, DRL is contributing to the development of clean technologies for the benefit not only of the space industry but also of other non-space sectors that are key for the German national hydrogen strategy.


The article aims to explore the role of space agencies in contributing to climate and energy challenges through knowledge, infrastructure, and research. Mariana Mazzucato has stated that “it is useful to study how specific mission-oriented agencies and organizations have worked whether in the military R&D programs or areas like health, agriculture or energy” (Mazzucato, 2018: 804). The example of the DLR project demonstrates that space infrastructure could be a crucial enabler in the development and commercialization of green hydrogen. Still, one should take into account that incorporating a space agency in the hydrogen strategy of a country depends on certain deciding factors, such as size, financial resources, and the agency’s mission. It is very intriguing, however, to consider the variety of ways in which the space industry can further the sustainable growth of the energy sector in the future.


1 Grey hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, such as natural gas. 




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