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The EU's recent $2.1 million ASCEND study has given fuel to the idea of launching data centers into space. The ambitious project, largely motivated by the escalating demand for data centers due to the rise of artificial intelligence, appears to be technically, economically, and environmentally feasible. Yet, it is not without objections and challenges.

Global electricity consumption from data centers is approaching astronomical figures. According to the study, the load could reach over 1,000 terawatt-hours in 2026, equivalent to Japan's entire electricity consumption. This staggering power usage is far from sustainable using current energy sources and data storage methods.

The ASCEND project offers a solution that may sound like a sci-fi script, but may become a reality - floating data centers in space that draw infinite energy from the sun, thus reducing energy consumption on Earth. The project aims to deploy 13 space data center building blocks with a total capacity of 10 megawatts by 2036. This number is projected to surge to 1,300 building blocks by 2050 to achieve 1 gigawatt.

This ambitious endeavor requires significant advances in space technology. Primarily, a new type of launcher, one that is at least 10 times less emissive, must be developed to reduce CO2 emissions significantly. Developers are optimistic about having the first eco-launcher ready by 2035.

Despite these promising plans and potential benefits, critics argue that the idea of space-based data centers does not entirely solve the issue of sustainable energy usage. They highlight that these data centers would require substantial amounts of rocket fuel to remain in orbit. This could negate the environmental benefits of reduced CO2 emissions, calling into question the project’s overall sustainability impact.

Additionally, the sheer scale of the AI data storage demand, and the technical complexity of creating and sustaining orbital data centers, are factors that need careful consideration and further research.

Nevertheless, for the EU, the ASCEND project is more than a green initiative. It is a strategic move aimed at gaining a competitive advantage in the global AI ecosystem, where it currently lags behind the US and China. Furthermore, ASCEND researchers have reportedly begun discussions with the International Space Agency for the next phase of the project.

Though ambitious and challenging, the ASCEND project symbolizes a paradigm shift in how we can meet the world's data demands in a more energy-efficient and sustainable manner. The concept's eventual fruition can revolutionize both AI computing and our understanding of sustainable energy utilization.

However, with challenges as astronomical as the project's ambitious vision, the road to implementation may be a veritable odyssey through unchartered cosmos. The implications of this project, should it be successful, would indeed be a giant leap for computing - and potentially for mankind.