Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

COVID-19 Could Ground NASA's New Moon Rocket

By Rich Smith - Mar 23, 2020 at 1:05PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Work halts at Stennis Space Center and the Michoud Assembly Facility.

NASA has stopped development work on its Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion space capsule, two key parts of the space agency's plan to return to the moon in 2024.

In a statement late last week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine explained that "the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community around the [Stennis Space Center in Mississippi], the number of self-isolation cases within our workforce there, and one confirmed case among our Stennis team," necessitated closing both the Center and the nearby Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the Space Launch System rocket is being built.

Artist's depiction of an SLS launch

Image source: Getty Images.

Accordingly: "NASA will temporarily suspend production and testing of Space Launch System and Orion hardware. The NASA and contractors teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume."

Bridenstine acknowledged that this suspension will have "impacts" on "NASA missions." Most immediately, the lack of progress toward completion will jeopardize President Trump's stated goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024 -- known as "Project Artemis." To achieve this goal, it was assumed to be necessary to begin launching SLS rockets carrying parts needed to assemble a "Lunar Gateway" station above the moon by 2023 at the latest -- this was in fact the primary reason Northrop Grumman was "sole-sourced" a $339 million contract last year, to modify a Cygnus supply capsule to serve as a habitation module for the station.

Other contractors whose businesses could be affected by the suspension include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and multiple other, smaller companies, both publicly traded and privately owned, who have been hired on to assist with Project Artemis.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Northrop Grumman Corporation Stock Quote
Northrop Grumman Corporation
NOC
$466.82 (0.67%) $3.12

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
336%
 
S&P 500 Returns
115%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 06/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.