PANDEMIC NEWS UPDATE: Webb telescope launch will slip; tracking environmental impacts via satellite; restarting flights to China; a celestial tribute to medical workers
By Cat Hofacker|June 24, 2020
Our weekly compendium of coronavirus news
- NASA plans to announce a new launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope in mid-July, program scientist Eric Smith told NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee today. Social distancing guidelines will continue to limit the number of personnel who can work on Webb in California for the foreseeable future, meaning the telescope will miss its March 2021 launch date, NASA associate administrator for science Thomas Zurbuchen said earlier this month.
- Tomorrow at 9 a.m. Eastern, officials from the European Space Agency; JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and NASA will unveil a dashboard depicting the global impact of covid-19. Named the “COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard,” the web page will combine satellite data from the three agencies to track “key indicators of changes in air and water quality, climate, economic activity, and agriculture,” according to NASA.
- Delta Air Lines will resume flights to China tomorrow, the company says. The twice-weekly flights departing from Seattle will be the first since February, when U.S. airlines including Delta suspended flights to China because of the pandemic.
- Spirit AeroSystems of Kansas will further reduce its production of Boeing 737 MAX fuselages through the end of the year, “due to COVID-19’s impact and accumulated inventory of Spirit’s B737 products,” according to a Monday filing with the Securities Exchange Commission.
- The U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center last week selected six launch companies for ride-share contracts under the Defense Production Act, meant to bolster U.S. launch providers who have seen funding shrink during the pandemic. Under the contracts, the amounts of which were not disclosed, Aevum, Astra, X-Bow, Rocket Lab, Space Vector and VOX Space will each launch two ride-share missions for government customers over two years.
- When the Atlas V rocket lifts off with NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover July 20, the rover will carry an aluminum plate commemorating the health care workers battling the pandemic, NASA officials said during a briefing last week. The rectangular plate depicting a globe atop the medical profession’s symbol of the serpent-entwined rod is meant to “demonstrate our appreciation for those who have put their personal well-being on the line for the good of others,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for Perseverance.