With the covid-19 cases increasing every day in the United States of America in the areas which have had less vaccination, the demand for hospital beds is at an all-time high with more than a hundred thousand people currently hospitalised. The number of people admitted in ICUs and people on ventilator support has also increased exponentially and has created a high demand for liquid oxygen for their treatment.
The unexpected high demand for liquid oxygen for medical use is having implications in a completely unrelated industry- The Space Industry. It is worth noting that the liquid oxygen which is chilled to -300 F (-184 C) is a very important component for any rocket or satellite launch and is used by every major space agency, from NASA and ISRO SpaceX and Virgin as it is used as a propellant.
The divergence of liquid oxygen from other industries for medical use has already caused NASA to announce the delay of the September launch of its next earth-surveillance satellite by a week.
At the recently concluded 36th annual Space Symposium in the USA, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell already predicted the effect of this situation on 24th August and hinted at the possible delays of its launches due to the shortages.
She said, “We’re actually going to be impacted this year with the lack of liquid oxygen for launch,” and later reaffirmed that they will make sure that the hospital will have their demand for liquid oxygen met. She even jokingly said that if anyone has spare oxygen they can shoot them an email.
Yesterday, SpaceX launched their Falcon 9 reusable rocket to the International Space Station with a shipment of Ants, Avocados and a robotic arm. The launch was made from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Falcon 9’s Merlin engines use methane and liquid oxygen as fuel.