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

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Pence to continue traveling despite aides testing positive for COVID-19

Marc Short with Pence in March. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative for the virus on Sunday morning, according to the vice president's office.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that she believes it's "extremely important" that Joe Biden offer Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressive leaders Cabinet positions if he's elected president.

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez was pressed repeatedly on policy differences between her and the more moderate Biden, including her opposition to fracking and support for Medicare for All. She responded that it would be a "privilege" and a "luxury" to be able to lobby a Biden administration on progressive issues, insisting that the focus right now should be on winning the White House.

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White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended Vice President Pence's decision to continue traveling and campaigning despite his exposure to aides who have tested positive for COVID-19, saying Sunday that Pence is exempt from CDC guidelines because he is "essential personnel."

Why it matters: CDC guidelines call for people who have been exposed to the virus to quarantine for 14 days. Meadows said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Pence will wear a mask when he travels and argued that "he's not just campaigning," pointing to the Israel-Sudan normalization agreement announced by the White House last week.