As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, many industries are trying to stay afloat. Governments and businesses involved with space are reacting differently to the new situation. Some launches are moving forward, while some are not; some tests continue, and some are delayed; some companies still operate, and others have shuttered. Is the space industry finding its new baseline in these unusual times?
Rockets continue to be launched; however, many launch providers are pushing future launches back. Rocket Lab, for example, has suspended launches for the time being. Guiana Space Center has suspended flights, though Arianespace still launches from Baikonur. Soyuz MS-16 launched on April 9 with a new crew for the International Space Station, and SpaceX is planning a Starlink launch on April 16 from the Kennedy Space Center. A planned launch of a GPS 3 satellite has been delayed, and China still launches.
Satellites and launch vehicles continue to be built, but this is generally proceeding with a reduced workforce. The reduction will likely push completion dates back. Meanwhile, some manufacturing has been halted completely. For example, Soyuz-2 production has ceased due to the pandemic.
Despite a delay in launches, Rocket Lab is still testing. They successfully recovered a booster via helicopter on April 9. Boeing also announced that they will test another uncrewed Starliner later this year.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the commercial side of the space industry is the fall of OneWeb due to the COVID-19 situation. Other companies might suffer a similar fate, although it is still early.
The industry seems to be tackling the pandemic in different ways. Companies and countries are set up in varying ways and have different missions and goals, so a mix of responses is not surprising. As the weeks pass, we will likely see a more cohesive answer from the space industry regarding COVID-19.