SpaceX has thus far managed to avoid much in the way of impact to its upcoming launch schedule, despite the widespread global coronavirus pandemic. The company successfully launched 60 more of its Starlink satellites just last week, and appears to be on track for its current mid-to-late May launch schedule for the first Commercial Crew mission with NASA (pending an investigation into what went wrong with an early engine cut-off during its last launch).
On Tuesday, however, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing confirmed that the timing for SpaceX’s upcoming SAOCOM launch, which was set to take off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on March 30 using a Falcon 9 rocket, has been put on “indefinite” hold due to the impact of the current coronavirus crisis. Vandenberg has declared a public health emergency as of this past weekend, and while there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the base thus far, the Air Force is limiting access to essential personnel, and providing only essential services, in addition to taking additional precautions to protect the safety of those who have to remain on site.
It was inevitable that SpaceX launches and schedules would be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: Already, NASA has had to pause work on some of its ongoing priority missions, including development of the Artemis program deep-space exploration spacecraft, and its James Webb Telescope project. While work continues on the Commercial Crew launch for now, NASA has been providing frequent updates about escalating measures to ensure the safety of its personnel and the public, slo we’ll keep you up to date on any additional developments.