I want to ask how this pandemic is expected to affect space travel and future plans for NASA and other space agencies. I've decided with the help of meta to ask more specifically about any currently planned space missions. Are any of them being delayed, set back or having complications due to any of the following:

  • Lack of materials being imported from countries where trade has been closed off.
  • Worry about contamination of employees, instruments or spacecraft.
  • Inability to maintain a working staff who can "man the machines"?

I'm interested in any setbacks including:

  • A loss of data due to a lack of scientists on site (thank you @uhoh for this suggestion).
  • Any delay in launches, maneuvers, ISS return missions, etc...
  • Far-in-the-future planned missions being pushed back.

Information for any space agency is great, NASA was what I had in mind because it's local, but I can't imagine India's space agency isn't also facing setbacks. If you have information about the ESA, China, Russia or any other of the space-involved countries that is also absolutely welcome.

I'm mostly curious as to if any of these agencies had plans in place for this type of disaster, as the space industry is notable for its contingency plans.


3 Answers 3


Definitely. There's an article in Spektrum.de on it. It's in German, but it references some English-language articles. A referenced article (English) says that launches at the Guiana Space Center (that's the ESA spaceport near Kourou) are being suspended and satellites being put in safe standby mode (not many details).

The Spektrum article references a NASA press release. Most work seems to be continuing, telecommuting whenever possible. Work on the James Webb Telescope is being suspended. SLS and Orion are on hold.

ESA's ExoMars mission is being delayed to 2022, but ESA chief Wörner says that to blame it entirely on COVID-19 would be unfair. Work on the LHC is being delayed, although that's particle physics.

The German Aerospace Center is telecommuting and has skeleton crews on sites, for instance, for responsibilities associated with the ISS, keeping biology experiments alive, and satellite collision avoidance. Workers need to practice social distancing and bring their own keyboards. Astronauts will still launch to the ISS, and a two-week quarantine before launch has always been the practice.

The HALO project in Brazil is on hold, although that's aircraft-based.

ESO's observatories in Chile are being shut down, and the Event Horizon Telescope, the global network that took a picture of a black hole last year.

An article in Axios adds that ESA's four Cluster satellites, and the Solar Orbiter, are going to sleep. And Bigelow Aerospace laid off its entire work force and shut down. The article in CNET adds the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Mars Express to the list (the delayed launch was ExoMars Rosalind Franklin).

That's kind of European-weighted. But generally speaking, a lot of science has been affected, especially experimental, which is hard to do from home.

China seems to be back in business; a Long March 2C brought up three spy satellites, and apparently a few days earlier was an attempted but failed launch of a Long March 7A, details not forthcoming.


Let the bad times roll! :-(

NPR reports that the Russian-European ExoMars mission to Mars has been delayed. While factors other than COVID-19 figured into this decision, there was also this consideration:

"We have made a difficult but well-weighed decision to postpone the launch to 2022," Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said in a statement.

Rogozin said agencies needed to "maximise the robustness of all ExoMars systems," but also that European experts involved in the project had no ability to travel to "partner industries" because of the "exacerbation of the epidemiological situation in Europe."


SpaceX has delayed the launch of SAOCOM 1B due to the Argentine crew unable to travel to Florida for the satellite integrations.


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