SpaceX Facing Liquid Oxygen Shortage To Fuel Falcon 9 Rockets: Here’s Why

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that they are facing a shortage of liquid oxygen used to fuel Falcon 9 Rockets. The same liquid oxygen is what is being used to treat COVID-19 patients on respirators.

SpaceX rockets are now grounded because of such a shortage, and Shotwell said they are open to third parties supplying liquid oxygen. The announcement was made on a Space Symposium panel held Tuesday, Space News reported.

SpaceX uses liquid oxygen as an oxidizer to ignite liquid kerosene rocket propellant. This powers the Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 rockets because the oxidizer and the rocket fuel react and make new molecules like gas. Shotwell said that although they need the liquid oxygen, they will ensure hospitals have what they need.

More on liquid oxygen used in hospitals, there is such a need now more than ever because of the spike of cases worldwide due to the COVID-19 Delta variant. In the last month, Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles said that they have 200 new COVID-19 patients per day. Because of the increase of cases, they had to increase their liquid oxygen reserve, too. Before the spike in cases, they had 6,000 gallons of liquid oxygen reserve, but they had to increase it to 9,000. The reserve usually lasts them for two weeks only.


Mara Bryant, the operations executive at Adventist Health, said, “When you’re talking about COVID, running out of oxygen would be your worst nightmare. You need a high flow oxygen to try to help people breathe as they fight the virus. But there’s a very heavy use.” Because oxygen is being consumed fast, their problem is getting pressure fluctuations in their system.

Other industries are also feeling the scarcity of the supply of liquid oxygen. In Florida, the Orlando Utilities Commission announced that their weekly liquid oxygen delivery, which they use in water purifications systems, decreased by 50 percent. Residents and businesses were then asked to reduce their use of water to avoid shortages.