Falcon Heavy test delayed, this time by government shutdown

SpaceX's test schedule for its new rocket has been repeatedly delayed, and now it's postponed at the hands of lawmakers.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket is still waiting.


The first test firing of SpaceX's massive rocket has been slipping for weeks for undisclosed reasons. The Falcon Heavy's static test fire at Kennedy Space Center has been delayed yet again, but this time we know why: the ongoing shutdown of the US government. 

The latest draft schedule included  Elon Musk's  space-transport company securing the rocket system to the ground and firing its boosters for a few seconds on Monday. But the failure of Congress to fund day-to-day operations of the federal government means the US Air Force will be too short-staffed to provide required support for the test at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

"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," reads a statement from the Patrick Air Force Base division that oversees launch operations at KSC.

The Falcon Heavy has been at  SpaceX's  launch pad 39A at KSC for a few weeks now undergoing tests in preparation for its first demonstration launch, which is set to send Musk's cherry red Tesla Roadster in the direction of Mars. On Sunday the rocket system, which is basically three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together and topped with a single second stage, underwent a fueling test in preparation for the static fire test. 

If Falcon Heavy eventually passes its static fire test and successfully launches, it will become the most powerful rocket in operation since the Saturn V took Apollo astronauts to the moon.   

"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," SpaceX told CNET in an email. "This shutdown impacts SpaceX's Falcon Heavy demonstration.... 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."  

How soon the static test fire could happen remains uncertain. Negotiations on Capitol Hill to fund and reopen the government are ongoing as of Monday. The last time the federal government shut down was 2013, when it remained closed for nearly two weeks. 

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