Coronavirus latest: SpaceX forced to postpone launch in light of pandemic

COVID-19 has brought the world to a grinding halt, and even those looking to escape Earth are not immune to the pandemic. Elon Musk’s SpaceX firm has had to postpone the launch of a rocket scheduled for March 30, but has had to call off the mission for the time being.

The private space exploration firm had scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

But the mission, along with all of its planned launches, have been put on “indefinite” hold for the foreseeable future, according to Tech Crunch.

It was only a matter of time before SpaceX had to postpone its program, following in the likes of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

NASA has had to suspend work on its Moon mission in light of the pandemic, after an employee at the Stennis Space Center in New Orleans, where it is testing the SLS rockets, came down with coronavirus.

NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said: “The change at Stennis was made due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community around the centre, the number of self-isolation cases within our workforce there, and one confirmed case among our Stennis team.

“NASA will temporarily suspend production and testing of Space Launch System and Orion hardware. The NASA and contractors teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume.”

Coronavirus has also put a temporary halt to a joint mission from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who had plans to send the ExoMars 2020 rover to Mars this year.

However, due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, which has seen more than 420,000 people infected, the launch has been postponed for two years.

This is because there are issues with some of the electronics in the robot, and a hardware concern for the solar panels.

At a normal time, this would not be an issue, but with borders being closed and countries being put on shut down, neither the engineers nor the parts are readily available.

Monica Grady, a professor of planetary and space science from the Open University, wrote for The Conversation: “Each of the hardware issues could be solved, as could problems with software – but in combination, there was too great a risk that the time remaining before the launch was too short to ensure full and thorough final testing.

“Just look back at the list of countries that have contributed to the build of the spacecraft.

“The final staging place before moving to the launch site is Turin, in northern Italy, where illness from coronavirus has practically closed the country and brought movement across its borders to a halt.

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“Engineers from the UK, France, Russia and the US (at the very least) will be needed alongside those in Italy for the final testing.

“Given restrictions on travel and movement of personnel, postponement of the launch became inevitable.

“It is somewhat ironic that only last week NASA announced that the name of its rover, to be launched as part of the Mars 2020 mission, was to be ‘Perseverance’.

“It seems that for ESA and Roscosmos, perseverance is not enough – and it is even more ironic that a mission specifically designed to search for life on another planet has been brought low by a simple virus on Earth.”

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