Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022
United Launch Alliance hoists its Atlas V booster onto the mobile launch pad next to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The missile will launch the AEHF-6 communications satellite.
enlarge United Launch Alliance hoists its Atlas V booster onto the mobile launch pad next to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The missile will launch the AEHF-6 communications satellite.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country, it is beginning to affect the global launch industry. As with virtually every other aspect of life in this time of uncertainty and COVID-19, conditions can change from day to day, if not hourly.

But as of early afternoon Monday, here is the state of affairs in major spaceports around the world.

Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Florida-based NASA and US Space Force launch pads in Florida will remain open for business for now. On Sunday morning, at T-0 during the countdown of a Falcon 9 rocket launch, an automatic abort was activated due to an engine power problem. Launch Complex 39A’s mission at Kennedy Space Center has been reset to launch no earlier than Wednesday.

The next launch planned from Florida next is United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, on March 26. This mission, to launch the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite for the US Space Force, has a two-hour launch window that opens at 2 a.m. 57 a.m. ET (6:57 p.m. UTC).

While United Launch Alliance has scaled down some aspects of its outreach for this mission — for example, a social media event has already been canceled — the company is following protocols outlined in its internal Pandemic Plan and continuing with essential activities.

“We continue to share information with and from health authorities, customers, contractors, suppliers and local authorities to ensure our protocols meet and sometimes exceed best practices,” said Heather McFarland, a company spokeswoman. “At this time, we do not expect an impact on the launch of AEHF-6 for the US space force.”

China

The most populous country in the world and the source of the pandemic appears to be emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. China even attempted a rocket launch on Monday. However, the inaugural launch of the Long March 7A rocket from Wenchang, China, was unsuccessful. According to a statement from state media, the launch was “abnormal” and will now be investigated.

Depending on the cause, the consequences of this malfunction can be: much more impact to the Chinese launch plans this year than the virus. This is because the Long March 7A shares common engines with other new cryogenic Long March vehicles.

In some ways, the Chinese launch industry has been somewhat normal even during the height of the coronavirus crisis over the past three months. Before Monday’s failure, the country had launched five rockets this year, and there were scattered reports that the commercial launch sector was largely unaffected by the outbreak.

Europe

Europe’s main spaceport is located in French Guiana, and on Monday Arianespace announced it was suspending operations at the South America-based facility.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to fully implement the measures decided by the French government, the ongoing launch campaigns at the Guyana Space Center in French Guiana have been suspended,” the French launch company said. “These launch preparations will resume as soon as health conditions permit. This exceptional measure is designed to protect the health of workers and local people, while also maintaining the safety needed to prepare for the planned launches.”

France and Italy are the leading manufacturers for European missiles launched from French Guiana, and both are among the European countries hardest hit by the virus. An Italian-made Vega rocket was set to launch from the facility on March 23.

Russia

Russia has a busy month planned for launch, both from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the country and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Within the next three weeks, the Baikonur facility has planned both a Soyuz launch of OneWeb satellites and a manned mission to the International Space Station that will include NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.

According to BBC reporter Jonathan Amos, Baikonur remains operational for the time being. However, the Russian space company Roscosmos announced Monday that mass media activities surrounding the planned April 9 manned launch from Baikonur have been canceled.

As we learn more about activities in other spaceports around the world, including New Zealand and India, we will update this report.

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.