Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX faces a shortage of liquid oxygen that is used to power its Falcon 9 rockets because of its increasing demand in hospitals treating patients with Covid-19, media reports said.
The company uses liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidizer to ignite liquid kerosene rocket propellant, which powers the Merlin engines on its Falcon 9 rockets.
However, as LOX is also used in respirators for those suffering from Covid-19, as well as water treatments, and with the pandemic lingering for more than 18 months, supplies are running low.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell stated that since liquid oxygen is short in supply, making it harder to launch rockets people should email her if they have some spare, the Daily Mail reported.
“We certainly are going to make sure hospitals have the liquid oxygen they need,” Shotwell said during a Space Symposium panel, per a video uploaded to YouTube by ExpovistaTV.
“For anybody that has liquid oxygen to spare, would you send me an email?” she added.
SpaceX uses liquid engines that use liquid propellant to generate thrust in its Merlin engines, which are powered by kerosene. The rocket fuel is mixed with an oxidizer in the combustion chamber, where they chemically react and make new molecules, including a gas.
The huge amount of gas produced, or the exhaust, can only escape out of a nozzle built into the back of the rocket. The action of the exhaust shooting out exerts an equal and opposite force on the rocket, which propels it upwards, the report said.
US hospitals, currently dealing with a spike in Covid-19 cases, partly due to the delta variant, are putting a strain on SpaceX’s supplies.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 38,217,956 and 632,223, respectively, according to the latest update on Thursday morning by Johns Hopkins University.
As per the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, till August 19, over 4.59 million children have tested positive for the virus since the onset of the pandemic early last year.
Meanwhile, the global microchip shortage has also delayed SpaceX’s Starlink broadband system.