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Virgin Orbit's ventilators. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Space-focused organizations around the U.S. are now looking to manufacture ventilators and other much-needed health equipment to aid the pandemic relief effort.

Why it matters: With high-minded ideals centered on delivering humanity to orbit, the space industry can feel removed from the machinations of everyday life. The coronavirus crisis is bringing it down to Earth.

What's happening: Virgin Orbit has started manufacturing bridge ventilators in its Long Beach, California, facility for use in the U.S. if it receives regulatory clearance.

  • The company is now producing its first 100 units with plans to eventually make more than 200 per week at the facility after receiving clearance.
  • "We started with a quite small team ... and ramped that up to maybe two or three dozen," Virgin Orbit's Will Pomerantz told Axios via email. "Small teams can move quickly, and keeping the team small helped us keep the device extremely simple — and, at the request of the medical community, we were aiming specifically for the simplest, safest, soonest design."
  • Virgin Orbit is mostly using people who were working on future rockets for the company to manufacture these ventilators, and the company successfully staged a major test of its launch system this week.

The big picture: NASA is also looking into ways to help with ventilator production, according to SpaceNews.

  • SpaceX plans to donate hand sanitizer and face shields made by the company to hospitals in need.
  • Blue Origin is also manufacturing face shields for medical personnel.
  • "I’ve always felt lucky to genuinely admire so many of our peers, our competitors, and our customers," Pomerantz said. "I know that huge numbers of them are thinking about ways they can help."

Go deeper: How America's ventilator shortage became GM's problem

Go deeper

Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

National Archives releases Trump White House records to Jan. 6 panel

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Archives on Thursday evening released records of former President Trump's White House to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, the agency said.

Why it matters: The committee now has documents that Trump attempted to keep hidden, arguing that their release would undermine his executive privilege.