Coronavirus Causes Delays in the Space Industry


Maximilian Looft

Due to COVID-19, a plethora of massive events and projects have been delayed or outright canceled. Because of this fear of the virus further spreading, not even NASA’s planned projects for the future are safe.

NASA’s developing rocket, the Space Launch System, was the first of many projects to be delayed because of the virus. Numerous facilities have been closed in order to keep staff safe and healthy. According to Scientific American, 10 out of 18 major facilities have been shut down. Production of the SLS rockets, as well as parts of the Orion capsule, will be tabled until the Stennis and Michoud assembly facilities are reopened.

Another of NASA’s ambitious projects could likely face delay as well: the James Webb telescope. Since its conception in 1996, the new successor to Hubble has experienced numerous delays. The telescope, sporting a massive 6.5-meter diameter mirror, was scheduled to launch in March 2021.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the likelihood of meeting that deadline is growing smaller, with a shrinking team that has dwindled from 45 to 15. The team is still managing to work on the telescope when they can, even having just successfully tested the folding of the telescope’s mirror, but fears of a likely delay aren’t likely to resolve so soon.

SpaceX, of course, hasn’t been spared either. Their latest planned launch for SAOCOM, another Argentinian observational satellite, is on indefinite hold, according to the website of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. Although SpaceX business flights are likely to be on hold, progress toward commercial flights continues.