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Government Shutdown Throws Wrench in SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket Launch

January 22, 2018, 5:53 PM UTC

The U.S. government shutdown has forced SpaceX to delay the launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

Currently, the Falcon Heavy is on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL awaiting its first test flight. And it will remain there because a test requires the help of the U.S. Air Force, which is unable to provide assistance absent the passage of a spending bill.

In a statement to news site The Verge on Monday, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which is tasked with keeping the public safe during launches, said that the shutdown has caused it to remove “key members of the civilian workforce” from its efforts. Without those people, the spokesperson told The Verge, it’s unable to support launch operations.

The decision comes after Republicans and Democrats last week failed to reach an agreement on spending that ultimately led to the government shut down. Both sides, including President Donald Trump, were negotiating to reopen the government. An agreement was made on Monday to extend funding to the government.

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The Falcon Heavy has been in development for the last several years. SpaceX had hoped to make its first test flight in 2013, but several delays and setbacks pushed back its launch. It’s unknown whether even a stopgap to address the government shutdown would allow for a launch.

The Falcon Heavy is one of the largest and most powerful rockets ever with more than 5 million pounds of thrust. It supposed to be capable of carrying 140,000 pounds of cargo into space and has been designed with three stages that can return safely to Earth, so they can be reused during future missions.

Update 1/22/18 at 1:05 to include agreement on government funding.