Landsat 9 delayed due to cryogenic shortages

Space Vehicle

A liquid nitrogen shortage is responsible for the launch delay of Landsat 9. Landsat 9 is the next generation Earth observing mission in the NASA/USGS Landsat program, running since the launch of Landsat in 1972. Landsat 9 is launching on an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base to insert it into a sun-synchronous orbit. While the actual stock of liquid nitrogen is not diminished in the greater Los Angeles area, the ability to effectively distribute it has been affected by the pandemic. Many specialized container transport vehicles for cryogenic materials that used to carry liquid nitrogen have been refitted to transport liquid oxygen, as it is rarer and more in demand, consequently it carries a higher premium to transport.

This is an interesting avenue to impede with space operations and launch capabilities of a state by another state or terrorist actor – instigate an attack on goods transport infrastructure. If stock at a warehouse could be rerouted to locations where the cryogenic materials could not be stored safely in time, or if facilities themselves faced attacks that shut down their networks and render them unable to process more shipments, launches simply cannot happen. This effects a key critical system – the actual physical infrastructure for the transport of key launch necessities, and critical networks that operate these transit operations for us.

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