By Alex Polimeni
As COVID-19 sweeps through the nation, steps are being taken in the space industry to ensure the safety of engineers, technicians, and aerospace experts.
According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as of Mar 28, aerospace and defense industries are considered to be exempt from certain stay-at-home orders.
Workers who support national security programs for the U.S. government and Department of Defense, including space and aerospace workers, are considered essential personnel, according to CISA Director Christopher Krebs, in a memo published on the agency’s website.
However, the exemption is not stopping certain aerospace corporations and agencies from taking action to keep employees safe. According to a NASA news release, Certain NASA facilities are in Stage four, a status that prevents any non-essential employees from being on site.
“Mandatory telework is in effect for NASA personnel at both facilities until further notice. Additionally, all travel is suspended,”said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein. “These measures are being taken to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our communities.”
Yet, certain essential missions continue to proceed, including the Mars 2020 rover, recently named Perseverance. The $2 billion rover must launch within a narrow launch window between July 17 and Aug. 5, or wait nearly two years, according to a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website,Engineers and technicians will continue to prepare the rover for its launch on the Atlas V rocket this summer.
United Launch Alliance and the U.S. Space Force continues to prepare the USSF-7 mission for launch in mid May, according to a ULA press release. The USSF-7 contains a U.S. Space Force space drone in support of U.S. national security.
Despite the spread of the Coronavirus, ULA successfully launched the U.S. Space Force’s first mission on Mar. 26, marking ULA’s 138th launch. Precautions were already in place such as the media having to maintain six to 10 feet from other reporters and officials at all times.
“The success of today’s launch is the culmination of years of dedication, hard work and teamwork with several of our mission partners,” said General John Raymond, General of the U.S. Space Force, in a ULA press release.
According to General John Raymond, the launch of AEHF-6 was made successful by combined teams from the Space and Missile Systems Center, satellite builders at Lockheed Martin, aircrews from the Air Mobility Command, the 45th Space Wing range, and ULA.
“In the face of COVID-19 we are continuing to provide the capabilities that are critical [to] our American way of life,” Raymond said in a U.S. Space Force press release. “I’m very comfortable that we will continue to provide those capabilities without fail.”