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How SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit and ULA are helping in the fight against coronavirus

Engineers responsible for making rockets and spacecraft are now using their brainpower to help combat COVID-19

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Houston, we have a solution!

There seems to be no challenge too big for aerospace engineers to handle. They can make the most powerful rocket on earth. They can land rovers on Mars. They can send humans to the moon. And in the case of NASA'sApollo 13 mission— the 50th anniversary is April 11 — they could repair a dying spacecraft and save the three men aboard using duct tape and cardboard.

Known for the ingenuity and problem-solving skills, the engineers responsible for making rockets and spacecraft are now putting their brainpower and high-tech manufacturing methods to help combat COVID-19.


Blue Origin

To help with the shortage of face shields for healthcare professionals, Blue Origin is using 25 of its 3D printers that normally make rocket parts to crank out hundreds of visors used for protective face shields.

The employees volunteering to work on the project spend their days developing Blue’s powerful rocket engine known as BE4 and their free time making the shields at their headquarters in Kent, Washington.


SpaceX

Despite his initial comments calling “panic” over the coronavirus “dumb,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has directed his other company Tesla to put their 3D printers to work making ventilators out of Tesla car parts. The ventilator is powered by the Tesla Model 3 Infotainment System complete with a fancy touchscreen that tracks the pressure, flow and volume of the breath a patient would take assisted by the ventilator.

As far as his aerospace company, CNBC reported that SpaceX built 75 face shields and delivered them to Cedars Sinai, a major hospital in Los Angeles. According to an internal email shared with CNBC, the company is also ramping up to make a hand sanitizer that “complies with CDC guidelines and is effective at killing the COVID-19 coronavirus.”


Virgin Orbit

Virgin says its team is working around the clock, seven days a week on prototyping and testing ventilators for hospitals. Working with medical experts at the University of California – Irvine and the University of Texas Austin, Virgin Orbit has created a mass-producible “bridge ventilator” to help in the COVID-19 effort.

Because their goal was to make a machine with parts that are easy to obtain, their design is actually powered by a windshield wiper motor. Virgin hopes to begin producing 100 a week at its Long Beach, California, facility and ramp up from there.


United Launch Alliance

ULA CEO and self-proclaimed cowboy, Tory Bruno has fired up the 3D printers at his home ranch in Colorado to make face shields.

Bruno inspired his colleagues to join the cause and now employees in Denver and Decatur, Alabama are operating more than 10 pieces of 3D printing equipment normally used to produce components for the Vulcan Centaur rocket to create protective gear, including components for face shields and ventilators.

"As a company, our primary focus is fulfilling missions that are critical to national security throughout this public health emergency," Bruno said. "I'm proud and thankful that we can also use our capabilities to protect medical professionals who are working to keep us safe and healthy."

The ventilator manifolds can be used to split airflow from ventilators to enable one ventilator to treat multiple patients simultaneously. The ULA team is working with Project C.U.R.E. to distribute the protective equipment to hospitals across the country.

News 6 partner Florida Today reported on the story above.