Friday, March 20, 2020

Pandemic halts SLS work

Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Mississippi have been elevated to "Stage 4" response level to the coronavirus pandemic, a move that halts indefinitely work on NASA's Space Launch System. The move to the highest level response was announced Thursday by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The Ames Research Center in California is also now Stage 4 and the rest of NASA's centers remain at Stage 3, where they were placed Tuesday. Stage 3 requires mandatory telework and some mission-essential work on site to continue. For Stage 4 only personnel needed to “protect life and critical infrastructure” are allowed at the center. Bridenstine said in the statement that the decision was made because of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the community at both centers, and the diagnosis of one Stennis employee with the disease. The Stage 4 designation will impact work on the Space Launch System and, to a lesser extent, the Orion spacecraft. The core stage for the first SLS mission was recently completed at Michoud and shipped to SSC for testing leading up to a “Green Run” static-fire test later this summer. “The NASA and contractor teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume,” the statement said. (Sources: SpaceNews, Reuters, 03/19/20)