Home Science The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Impacting Place Launches. Here’s Why

The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Impacting Place Launches. Here’s Why


Provide chains have been wreaking havoc throughout the industrial earth. The intricate website that retains the world’s economies collectively has been fraying at the edges, ensuing in some unanticipated shortages, these types of as a absence of rental automobiles in Alaska and a lack of Lunchables at the author’s area grocery shop. 


Now there’s a supply scarcity that immediately ties to the pandemic that is commencing to affect the place start marketplace – oxygen.

It is common understanding at this place that liquid oxygen (LOX) is an significant instrument for combating severe symptoms of COVID-19. Most clients admitted to the healthcare facility with the virus want oxygen instantly pumped into the lungs, usually provided by LOX suppliers this kind of as AirGas or other industrial gas providers. 

Oxygen is also utilized in higher portions in a entirely distinctive software – rocket engines.

Chilled oxygen is a vital propellant chemical for all the major launch corporations, together with SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, and ULA. But it’s getting tougher and more durable to acquire the liquid variety of the most plentiful factor in the Earth’s crust.

Which is in no small part mainly because the exact same method applied to produce oxygen for rocket fuel can also produce oxygen applied for COVID people. And as Richard Craig, the vice president of specialized and regulatory affairs for the Compressed Gasoline Affiliation, put it: “People come 1st.”

Even avid space exploration enthusiasts would not disagree with that logic. But the spike in COVID circumstances more than the summer is starting off to tax the offer chain for oxygen.


It got to the issue that the two Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President, and Elon Musk, its CEO, spoke out about the likely effects a deficiency of oxygen could have on their flight agenda. Shotwell went so far as to immediately request conference-goers at the 36th Space Symposium to “send [her] an email” if they come about to have any liquid oxygen to spare.

She will be hard-pressed to uncover any in the household condition of some of SpaceX’s launches. Florida is a person of the toughest-hit states in the present-day resurgence of the pandemic.

LOX normally isn’t transported in excess of considerably distances – most is created about 200-300 miles (322-483 kilometers) from wherever it is dispersed. It is feasible to transport the liquid additional. Nonetheless, another confounding aspect impacts the intricate LOX provide chain – truck drivers.

LOX is remarkably flammable and explosive, so drivers that ferry it in between output and consumption websites this sort of as rocket pads have to be even extra really properly trained than a typical industrial truck driver. Proper now, there is a lack of professional truckers of all stripes and a distinct lack of those people competent to haul liquid oxygen.


While some suppliers are, in point, in a position to ship oxygen supplies farther than their regular consumer base, that will take up important time from the truckers who would in any other case be capable to produce it to closer locations.

These motorists aren’t only accountable for delivering oxygen, although.

Other factors for rocket launches, such as liquid nitrogen, are also carried by very capable motorists. This brings about supply chain limitations from the other facet as properly.

In truth, NASA had to hold off a rocket launch of an Earth-surveillance satellite by a week because of to a deficiency of liquid nitrogen ULA employs to check the rocket before launch. But the liquid nitrogen was itself a casualty of the oxygen shortage, according to a statement from NASA: “Current pandemic needs for professional medical liquid oxygen have impacted the shipping and delivery of the desired liquid nitrogen offer to Vandenberg.”

This surely will not be the final scheduling casualty of this expanding supply chain issue.

SpaceX hopes to surpass their full of 26 launches from past calendar year and are well on their way to performing so. But their timeline, and all other start providers’ timelines, may possibly be impacted by this supply chain disruption.

This is just a further reason to hope for a swift finish to the pandemic for place exploration fans.

This post was initially revealed by Universe Today. Read the unique post.


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