The Colorado-based launch provider United Launch Alliance has reportedly required its employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October, according to an internal email to ULA employees.
CNBC reported that ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno, sent a company-wide email explaining the requirement and stated that this decision “will place us in a much better position to meet the nation’s needs and our [launch] manifest commitments”.
ULA employees will be required to get their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of September, with the second being required by the end of October. The company employs workers at its headquarters in Colorado and facilities in Alabama, Texas, Florida, and California.
Like most industries, COVID-19 caused serious problems for launch providers that needed to be solved last year when widespread lockdowns kept employees from working in the factories. This affected mission timelines and added difficulties when launching international payloads specifically.
The only missions that were allowed to be worked on at NASA facilities were those considered mission-critical. These included NRO missions, NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover, and SpaceX’s Starlink (due to the military’s interests in it). Since then, fewer COVID-19 cases and the creation of vaccines, launches have somewhat returned to normal.
ULA has launched twice in 2021, after what was expected to be a relatively busy year for them. The next mission the ULA team is working on is NASA/United States Geological Study’s Landsat 9 mission launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base next month. Following this launch, NASA’s Lucy mission and several Department of Defense missions will take over. All this while Boeing will also try to find room to launch their Starliner OFT-2 mission after they have fixed the valve issues.
While some of the Department of Defense missions scheduled for Q4 will be pushed back into 2022, we still expect a good number of Atlas V launches to take place this year.
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