No launches, Falcon Heavy test fire during government shutdown

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The government shutdown will delay a key engine test of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and other launches on the Eastern Range, U.S. Air Force officials said over the weekend.

Commander of the Eastern Range 45th Space Wing Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith said Sunday that civilian employees will be on furlough and won't be able to support launch operations, including the static fire at Kennedy Space Center.

"We simply cannot accomplish our primary mission of assured access to space without our incredible civilian workforce," Monteith said in a statement. "This challenging time should not divide but unite us. My hope is that the furlough’s duration will be brief and become a mere speed bump in our drive to 48 launches a year."

SpaceX teams have been testing fueling the company's new rocket ahead of the static fire, which involves firing up all 27 Merlin engines.

Falcon Heavy's first launch won't happen until about two weeks after the static fire.

SpaceX communications director John Taylor said Monday that the company is hoping for a quick resolution.

“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," Taylor said. "This shutdown impacts SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy demonstration, which is critical for future NSS (National Security Space) missions. It 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 Western Range and 30th Space Wing is also affected by the shutdown.

NASA officials said Monday that all social media and public relations activities are cancelled or postponed until further notice.

Meanwhile in New Zealand Sunday, U.S. space startup Rocket Lab launched its first successful mission with its Electron rocket from the Mahia Peninsula.

It was the second launch in seven months for the company based out of California, but the first successful mission.

The New Zealand launch complex was unaffected by the U.S. government shutdown.

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