The $400 billion space industry is bracing for coronavirus, as two NASA employees test positive

The Atlas V 431 rocket rolled out to the SLC-41 pad December 17 in preparation for the EchoStar XIX satellite launch December 18.

Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance

While schedule delays are nothing new in the business of space, companies in the estimated $400 billion industry are largely bracing for widespread work from home policies that could grind production and development to a halt.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Blue Origin are just a few of the organizations that have begun to limit business travel, reschedule events and move some workers to remote set-ups. But building complex spacecraft, developing software with high-powered computers and working in research teams will likely be out of the question if the conronavirus pandemic continues to worsen. Johns Hopkins University reported the U.S. has at least 3,244 confirmed cases and the CDC on Sunday urged organizers to cancel in-person events with 50 people or more in attendance throughout the country.

“We have a lot of ambiguity at this moment,” Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, the leader of NASA’s science division, said at a meeting on Thursday.

The agency’s Marshall center in Huntsville, Alabama reported on Friday that a NASA employee tested posted for coronavirus. Marshall is now in a “Stage 3” response status, meaning that it is requiring employees telework and saying that “access to the center will be restricted to mission-essential personnel only.”

Two NASA employees test positive so far

“More guidance will follow for those who do not have equipment to work from home or who work in labs or other facilities requiring similar technical equipment that is a fixed asset,” Marshall director Jody Singer said in a statement.

Marshall joins NASA’s Ames center in Silicon Valley in a “Stage 3” status. Ames had an employee test positive for coronavirus a week ago, although NASA said at the time it believed “exposure at the center has been limited.”

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Huntsville Herald
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