SpaceX's Falcon Heavy can't launch during a government shutdown

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 22, 2018

While the Heavy's core stage was successfully tested previous year, this marks the first test of the fully assembled rocket under launch conditions. However, in order to properly conduct the test, SpaceX needs help from the US Air Force, and the government shutdown means numerous people involved in the test won't be showing up to work.

The Falcon Heavy is supposed to fly from a historic site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral Florida, called LC-39A.

SpaceX originally thought the shutdown would not impact its schedule, but the company later confirmed to The Verge that the shutdown does indeed delay the test of the Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX will not be able to conduct a static fire test of its Falcon Heavy rocket during the government shutdown. SpaceX has already demonstrated (after numerous failures) that its Falcon 9 can land remotely and be reused, greatly decreasing the Falcon Heavy's operational costs.

"We remain hopeful that the Congress will quickly resolve their differences and put our partners in the Air Force and NASA back to doing their important work as soon as possible", a SpaceX spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Popular Mechanics."This shutdown impacts SpaceX's Falcon Heavy demonstration, which is critical for future NSS [national security space] missions". "Without our civilian workforce, the 45th SW is unable to support launch operations as well". And right now, SpaceX is gearing up to do an important test at the site called a static fire. In its first flight, the rocket and its 27 engines will push towards the heavens and, as Musk has stated multiple times, the rocket isn't expected to survive its trip. SpaceX has been trying to do a static fire in January, with the goal of flying at the end of the month.

The company relies on the Air Force's 45th Space Wing which overseas launch operations at the Kennedy Center, but civilian staff have been sent home due to the government shutdown. The Los Angeles Times reported on SpaceX's funding saying "On a smaller scale, SpaceX, Musk's rocket company, cut a deal for about $20 million in economic development subsidies from Texas to construct a launch facility there". But in the meantime, the engines will stay silent at Cape Canaveral.

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