The Los Angeles-based startup, which hopes to blow satellites into orbit via a rocket launched from the wing of a 747 aircraft, said in a series of tweets that as infection rates in the area “ skyrocket, ” the contact finding Virgin Orbit has placed so many employees in “precautionary quarantine” that the company does not have enough staff to support an upcoming test flight of its LauncherOne missile.
Virgin Orbit, like other space technology companies in the United States, is allowed to continue operations during the pandemic, as the government considered the space sector in March as part of the country’s ‘critical infrastructure’. As one industry group argued, the industry’s commercial activity is also intertwined with critical U.S. national security projects and NASA programs.
Virgin Orbit was derived from Virgin Galactic in 2017, which focuses on sending tourists on suborbital flights that are about 80 kilometers high.
Virgin Orbit then said it planned to conduct a second test launch before the end of the year, and a Federal Aviation Administration-certified launch was scheduled for this weekend.
But the company said that after completing an attempt to trace contacts last Friday, it decided to halt a final refueling test of its missile midway through that operation so that managers could “make a clear assessment before proceeding.”
“Given the timelines associated with accurate Covid-19 test results, this will affect our launch schedule,” said a tweet to Virgin Orbit’s account. “We are assessing that impact now. We will be ready to fly shortly, but the health of our team and their families continues to be at the forefront of our decisions.”