SpaceX faces possible liquid oxygen shortage for rocket fuel amid pandemic

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Liquid oxygen (LOX) is briefly provide as demand rises with COVID-19 instances within the United States. But as hospitals wrestle to determine the best way to deal with sufferers, SpaceX worries the shortage might additionally jeopardize upcoming launches. 

With the fast unfold of the COVID-19 Delta variant, instances are on the rise as we push by means of the second year of the pandemic. Hospitals treating COVID-19 sufferers depend on LOX for ventilator therapies, and with rising numbers, LOX is turning into laborious to search out. 

However, as SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell identified through the thirty sixth annual Space Symposium right here on Tuesday (Aug. 24), this shortage might influence upcoming launches, as many launch suppliers depend on LOX, a generally used propellant. 

“We’re actually going to be impacted this year with the lack of liquid oxygen for launch,” Shotwell stated. 

Related: Coronavirus pandemic: Full space industry coverage

“We certainly are going to make sure hospitals have liquid oxygen that we need,” Shotwell added. “But for anybody that has liquid oxygen to spare, you can send me an email.”

SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine, which is able to energy the corporate’s big new Starship deep-space transportation system, employs supercooled liquid methane and LOX as propellants. The firm’s earlier engines, Merlin and Kestrel, have additionally used LOX, although with refined kerosene somewhat than methane.

The response between propellants in a rocket engine creates warmth and exhaust gases which can be accelerated by means of a nozzle, creating thrust that pushes towards Earth and propels the rocket as much as space. 

Shotwell didn’t specify the impacts that the LOX shortage might need on SpaceX’s upcoming launch schedule. The firm has already put Starlink internet satellite launches on hold since its final Starlink launch June 30. The firm paused launches so as to add laser tech to its satellites. 

In discussing the pause to improve the Starlink satellites throughout this identical panel, Shotwell shared that she expects the subsequent Starlink launch to occur  in “roughly three weeks.” 

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or comply with her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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