Science News

Government Shutdown Delays Falcon Heavy Rocket Launch

Photo from SpaceX

The current government shutdown will cause further delays in the set static fire schedule of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the company said. Staffing restrictions mean that the US Air Force is unable to support the planned test.

The static fire is a major pre-launch trial of the Falcon Heavy – the most powerful operational rocket in the world, Newsweek reports.

A statement from the 45th Space Wing, the department of the Air Force supporting space missions, stated,

Due to the shutdown removing key members of the civilian workforce, the 45th Space Wing will not be able to support commercial static fires taking place on KSC. Without our civilian workforce, the 45th SW is unable to support launch operations as well.

SpaceX confirmed the news in a statement. John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesperson, told The Verge, “[The shutdown] also impacts critical missions for our customers, including important international allies, scheduled to launch shortly from Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, as well as upcoming missions this spring to resupply the International Space Station.”

The static fire test has already seen several setbacks and postponements; the scheduled date was to have been today, after a fueling test passed muster yesterday.

During the static fire test, the Falcon Heavy rocket’s engines will be fired t full thrust for a few seconds while strapped to the launch mount. The data generated during this test will help engineers prepare for the final launch.

The Falcon Heavy has power equal to 18 jumbo jets at liftoff, made up of three Falcon 9 rockets grouped together. Falcon 9 rockets are used to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rockets have nine Merlin engines, so the Falcon Heavy has a whopping 27.

This massive rocket can take the biggest payload since Saturn V. Falcon Heavy can carry up to 140,660 pounds into low-Earth orbit.

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