Featured Image Source: CONAE
The entire world is facing the challenge to protect themselves and others against COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus strain that is rapidly spreading. The World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic and advised governments to take strict countermeasures to protect public health. Many countries have now imposed travel restrictions and closed borders in an effort to contain the virus. This week, many cities in the United States of America issued a 'shelter-in-place' order that mandates individuals to stay at home. The U.S. government also shutdown flights and closed borders, in hopes of slowing down COVID-19 spread. Taking all these drastic measures gives scientists and medical workers time needed to determine how to treat the infectious disease.
Due to this, SpaceX's next rocket launch was delayed. The mission for Argentina's CONAE national space activities commission [Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales - CONAE]. SpaceX was slated to launch the SAOCOM 1B, an Earth imaging satellite, into Polar Orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. It was scheduled to liftoff from Cape Canaveral's Vandenberg Air Force Station by the end of the month on March 30, but now it is delayed 'indefinitely' due to the current strict travel restrictions. Even though the satellite arrived last month to Florida, Argentina's government issued travel restrictions which makes it difficult for engineers who work on SAOCOM-1B development to travel to Florida for mission assistance. Also, NASA temporarily closed rocket launch viewing centers. The agency announced:
"In response to the prevention and control of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests and crewmembers, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has temporarily closed. There will be no launch viewing opportunities for this launch."
The SAOCOM-1B satellite was manufactured entirely in Argentina. It will be deployed into Polar Orbit, at an altitude of approximately 620 kilometers above Earth. Once SAOCOM-1B is operational, it will be capable of detecting any weather condition on our planet's surface, it will serve as a forecast system for flooding by detecting moisture levels within the soil. Detecting soil moisture will also help Argentinian producers know the best time for planting, also give them insight on fertilization and irrigation in crops such as sunflower, wheat, soybeans, and corn. Satellite will also provide support in relation to the use of chemicals for disease control in crops, and serve to generate an early warning system for floods. SAOCOM-1B is equipped with complex Earth observation technology featuring advanced optical sensors, known as Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR). SAR is a radar that creates 2D images or 3D visuals of landscapes on our planet. It will create 225 images per day of Argentina's surface.
Se pospone el lanzamiento del SAOCOM1B— CONAE (@CONAE_Oficial) March 24, 2020
Las restricciones que impone la pandemia COVID-19, podrían afectar la disponibilidad de recursos propios y del exterior para una inserción segura en órbita y posterior puesta en funcionamiento del satélite.
Más info 👉https://t.co/0oRadHrqKI pic.twitter.com/uxj2TdFaLe
This is the first SpaceX mission impacted by the countermeasures issued to control the coronavirus outbreak. Over the weekend, the Vandenberg Air Force base declared a public health emergency. Officials are limiting access to staff who's job is to provide essential services, as mandated by local government in Florida.
Author's note: Don't Panic. We are all in this together. For accurate information about COVID-19 visit: CDC.gov/coronavirus
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.