The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has had significant medical, social and economic effects on the planet, but how has the space community fared? The full answer will not be known for many months, but in this article Seraphim’s Josephine Millward takes an initial look at how different areas of the space industry have been affected.
The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has led to unprecedented economic disruption and market volatility and although the space industry has been more resilient than other sectors during the crisis, it is not immune to this global pandemic. Companies large and small face business uncertainty, supply chain disruptions and delays. Most publicly traded companies withdrew their 2020 guidance (an indication of future earnings), while start-ups are tightening their belts to conserve cash. In fact, COVID-19’s rapid spread has already pushed several struggling start-ups over the edge.
OneWeb, one of the leading and most well-funded broadband constellations, filed for bankruptcy in late March. Although the company cited Coronavirus as a reason that anticipated funding became unavailable, independent commentators have suggested that the writing was already on the wall for OneWeb. Whatever the reason, given the size and scope of the company (which had succeeded in raising a total of $3.4 billion for 650 satellites), this loss is a significant blow to the NewSpace ecosystem and has ramifications for its suppliers, vendors and partners in the industry at large.
Other well-known space companies closing their doors include Bigelow Aerospace and Sky & Space Global, both victims of the liquidity crunch. Meanwhile, several rocket launches and space mission operations have been suspended or delayed.
So, although it is still too early to reach anything like a final conclusion, it is worth looking at how different areas of the space industry have been impacted by COVID-19.