WASHINGTON – The current partial shutdown of the government has led a company to postpone the imminent launch and in the near future could affect other commercial launches, including the crew's main crew mission.
Exos Aerospace was planning to launch its SARGE January 5 sailboat rocket from Spaceport America in New Mexico. That launch was postponed until February 9, John Quinn, chief operating officer of the company, said on January 2.
Quinn said the main reason for the delay was the company's inability to obtain its existing permission to launch by the Federal Office of Air Navigation of the Office for Commercial Space Transport Changes. The company is trying to change the license to change wind safety calculations in order to reduce the chances of launch.
"FAA did not support modifications to licenses during shutdown, so we put aside the potential to reduce the likelihood of cleaning, based on the limitation of the windboard in our license," he said.
The FAA, part of the Department of Transportation, is one of the government agencies affected by the partial shutdown of the government, which began on December 22, when the funding of these agencies is running out with permanent resolution. The FAA announced December 22 that only "exempt" activities would continue during the shutdown. It includes "surveillance over the launch of commercial space systems," according to the shutdown plan, but there are no other activities related to commercial space transport.
Quin said that, if Exos decides to continue the launch, FAA will allocate staff to support it. However, the company decided to postpone the launch to buy more time to change the license. The factor in what is said is the limited supply and the high costs for the helium, which are used to pressure the vehicle's propulsion system; delaying the launch reduces the possibility that the helium will be spent for artificial cleaning.
The launch will be the second for SARGE, a missile missile sound that has developed Exos for flying at the expense of space. The rocket, on its first launched August 25, experienced a problem with its GPS receiver, which caused early shutdown of the main engine. The rocket reached a peak of 28 km – far less than the planned 80 km – before returning to landing near the launch site. If the GPS receiver is not defective, the company said the rocket could fly up to 90 kilometers.
Other commercial start-ups take place as planned, despite exclusion. SpaceX is preparing its first Falcon 9 launch on January 8, launching the latest Iridium Next satellite from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This launch remains on the right track, despite the exclusion, because the company has an existing license for such launches.
The next launch of Blue Origin's new Sheppard subcorbital, previously planned for mid-December, was restored to "early 2019" after a series of technical problems and bad weather conditions at the launch site of West Texas. The company has a FAA license for such started projects, but it is uncertain whether the exclusion will have any effect on the cargo burden that the launch will bring through the NASA summer opportunity program, as NASA is also affected by the exclusion. A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to a request for comment on plans to launch on January 2.
The impact of the disconnection of NASA may delay the launch of SpaceX. Before shutdown, SpaceX was due to open its first demonstration mission for the commercial team, DM-1, on January 17. This mission will send a crew's dragon to the International Space Station, but without astronauts.
SpaceX lowered the Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the top to begin Complex 39A at the start of January 3 for a series of ramp tests. However, with the closure in progress, NASA's staff required to support the flight, such as for pre-launch inspections, were buried, according to industry sources. It is likely to delay the launch, even if the spacecraft and the launch vehicle are ready.
SpaceX may also need a new or modified FAA launch mission for the mission. The existing launch license includes the Launch Complex 39A launch of a cargo version of the "Dragon" spacecraft, but it's unclear whether that license can be used for the Crew Dragon spaceship. A spokesman for SpaceX said on Jan. 3 that the company was investigating any exclusion problems that could affect upcoming launches.