Shutdown Scrubs Space Launch

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The government shutdown has reached beyond the national airspace system and postponed at least one space launch.  According to spacenews.com, Exos Aerospace intended to launch its SARGE suborbital rocket from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Saturday but pushed it back to Feb. 9 in hopes FAA staff will be back at work and able to process a change to its launch license. Exos wants to change the wind restrictions on its license to lessen the chances of a scrub during its launch windows. Scrubbing a flight is expensive because of the high volume of helium needed to pressurize the fuel tanks. It gets vented if the launch is cancelled on launch day.

SpaceX’s Jan. 8 launch of the last load of Iridium Next satellites is unaffected by the shutdown because all the paperwork is done but its first orbital launch of a Crew Dragon capsule could be affected. The unmanned test flight, which will send the capsule to the International Space Station, needs some help from NASA but the people who would support that launch are furloughed. It may also need changes to the launch license because the crew capsule is different from the cargo capsule it has launched repeatedly over the past few years. A pending launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle could also be affected.

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