The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) fears missile launch delays. This is due to the need to redirect the supply of liquid oxygen from American spaceports to hospitals due to the increase in the incidence of coronavirus in the United States, Bloomberg reported on Saturday.
“The current demand for medical liquid oxygen due to the pandemic has impacted the delivery of the necessary [for launches] liquid nitrogen,” the agency quoted NASA as saying.
Large American companies such as SpaceX, ULA, and Virgin Orbit use oxygen, cooled to liquid form, as fuel to launch their rockets, the agency explains.
Liquefied oxygen is also used for the maintenance therapy of coronavirus-infected patients. Because ventilators need oxygen, they are given priority in the commercial gas supply chain.
“People are above all,” – quotes Bloomberg as the vice president for technical and regulatory issues of the US Compressed Gas Association Richard Craig. A shortage of commercial truck drivers to transport oxygen is exacerbating supply problems to hospitals, he said.
Craig added that some producers have expanded the geography of gas transportation and began to transport liquid oxygen within a radius of 300-500 km from production sites. As noted by Bloomberg, the September launch of the Earth observation satellite Landsat 9 has already been delayed by a week due to restrictions faced by the gas supplier Airgas.