At least 132 employees at SpaceX’s headquarters in Southern California have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to information published on a Los Angeles County website. This was the highest number of cases currently reported among private businesses in the county.
The outbreak erupted as a wave of infections spread across the country, mostly due to the virus variant Omicron, and also as the private space company founded and led by Elon Musk leads a rapid series of rocket launches at sites in California and Florida.
Some 6,000 employees at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Build and manufacture SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules. Rockets are the primary launch vehicle used by private companies and governments to put satellites into orbit, and capsules are NASA’s primary vehicle for transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. The company’s mission control room, where engineers are frequently shown during live video feeds of the launches, seated behind computer screens wearing masks, is also located in Hawthorne.
The outbreak at headquarters, reported earlier by The Los Angeles Times Based on data released Sunday by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, comes a busy time for the company.
SpaceX on Sunday broke a corporate record for the fastest turnaround time between two missions, launching a Turkish satellite into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida just 18 hours after launching 52 of the Starlink’s Internet satellites. company in orbit Saturday from Vandenberg Space Force base in California. Another Florida mission is scheduled for Tuesday morning, sending a cargo capsule full of supplies and research to the space station for NASA, although local weather appears unfavorable.
SpaceX did not return a request for comment.
During an earlier phase of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, opposed restrictions in California aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. In May of last year, Mr Musk, also chief executive of Tesla, the electric car maker, defied a public health order by resuming production at the company’s Fremont plant despite county restrictions. that would have prevented employees from working.
In the aftermath of Thanksgiving this year, Mr. Musk stoked fears of SpaceX bankruptcy in emails sent to employees, urging them to address the engineering challenges of developing Starship, the company’s next-generation rocket.
The pandemic has frequently disrupted the activities of space flights, costing NASA nearly $ 3 billion due to delays, according to an internal report, and a Euro-Russian mission to Mars had to be postponed to 2022 at the beginning of 2020. Nevertheless, SpaceX maintained its operations throughout the pandemic, in particular by resuming the launches of astronauts from American soil in May 2020.
Mr Musk himself tested positive for the virus in November 2020 and was unable to attend the launch of four astronauts into space for NASA from the Kennedy Space Center.