At least 132 employees at SpaceX’s Southern California headquarters tested positive for the coronavirus, according to information posted on the Los Angeles County website. This was the highest number of cases currently reported among private companies in the county.
The outbreak emerged as a wave of infections spreading across the country, driven primarily by the Omicron virus variant, as well as a rapid series of rocket launches at sites in California and Florida, the private space company founded and led by Elon Musk. is conducting.
About 6,000 employees at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., design and build SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. Rockets are the major launch vehicles used by private companies and governments to put satellites into orbit, and the capsule is NASA’s primary vehicle for carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. The company’s mission control room, where engineers are often featured during live video streams of launches, sitting behind computer monitors wearing masks, is also in Hawthorne.
The outbreak at the headquarters, first reported by the Los Angeles Times based on data posted Sunday by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, comes during a busy time for the company.
SpaceX broke the company’s record for the fastest turnaround time between two missions on Sunday, launching a Turkish satellite into space from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launching 52 of the company’s Starlink internet satellites at Vandenberg Space Force Base on Saturday. 18 hours after launching into orbit from California. Another mission from Florida is scheduled for Tuesday morning, for NASA to send a cargo capsule full of supplies and research to the space station, although local weather appears unfavourable.
SpaceX did not return a request for comment.
During the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic, SpaceX founder and chief executive Mr Musk imposed restrictions in California aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus. In May last year, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla, Musk, defied a public health order by resuming production at the company’s Fremont factory despite county restrictions that would have prevented employees from working.
The day after Thanksgiving this year, Musk expressed fears about SpaceX’s bankruptcy in an email sent to employees, urging them to work through engineering challenges related to the development of the company’s next-generation rocket, the Starship.
The pandemic has repeatedly disrupted spaceflight activities, with delays costing NASA nearly $3 billion, and the postponement of a European-Russian mission to Mars from early 2020 to 2022, according to an internal report. Had to do Still, SpaceX has maintained its operations throughout the pandemic. , including the resupply of astronauts from US soil in May 2020.
Mr Musk himself tested positive for the virus in November 2020 and was barred from launching four astronauts into space for NASA from the Kennedy Space Center.