Colorado Springs – A widespread lack of liquid oxygen associated with the latest wave of the pandemic may affect SpaceX’s launch plan, a company executive said August 24.
At the 36th Space Symposium here, Gwen Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, addressed the difficulty of securing a supply of liquid oxygen as one of the most important concerns in the supply chain.
“In fact, this year we’re going to suffer from a lack of liquid oxygen to release,” she said. “We’ll definitely make sure hospitals get the oxygen they need, but for anyone with liquid oxygen, email me.”
Liquid oxygen is one of the most common fuels used in launch vehicles. It acts as an oxidizer with fuels such as liquid hydrogen, kerosene, and methane.
The need for liquid oxygen has risen in recent weeks due to an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. Hospitals use liquid oxygen as an oxygen source for ventilators.
This demand has far-reaching implications for the liquid oxygen supply chain. In Florida, the Orlando Utilities Commission announced August 20 that its weekly supply of liquid oxygen used in water treatment systems has been reduced by up to 50%. Officials urged city residents and businesses to reduce their water use to avoid water shortages that could result from lower water treatment systems.
Shotwell did not explain the effect of liquid oxygen starvation on its release schedule. The company hasn’t launched a Falcon 9 rocket since June 30, an unusually long hiatus caused in part by delays in production of new Starlink satellites with inter-satellite laser links. However, SpaceX will end this outage by launching its Falcon 9 cargo ship to the International Space Station on August 28 from the Kennedy Space Center.
Other companies see the effects of liquid oxygen deficiency. in one tweet After the conference session, United Launch Alliance CEO Tori Bruno said the government contractor that provides nitrogen to launch facilities at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, is now working to address liquid oxygen deficiency in Florida.
This could affect plans to launch the Vandenberg spacecraft Landsat 9 on Atlas 5, currently scheduled for September 16. “Work on this situation now,” Bruno said.
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