A large spy satellite from the USA UU It successfully launched into orbit on Saturday from central California due to concerns that the government's continued closure threatens to disrupt launch plans for future commercial, civil and potentially military cargoes.
The Delta IV rocket carrying a clbadified satellite from the Office of National Reconnaissance took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 11:10 a.m. local time, with the main engines of the 1.6-million-pound rocket operating as expected and the upper stage lighting up approximately six minutes on the flight. The rocket was supplied to the Air Force by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between
Originally scheduled for early December, the mission was the 11th launch of the most powerful and expensive variant of the Delta IV rocket, a version that many Pentagon legislators and planners are eager to replace with less expensive options. But Air Force and ULA officials have said they plan to rely on the heavy cargo model, possibly until the end of the next decade, or until alternative reinforcements are developed, tested in flight and proven to be equally reliable. .
In the days leading up to the launch, officials in the satellite and rocket industry expressed concern that the prolonged suspension of the federal employee could adversely affect the missions scheduled to start from launch platforms run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other space ports.
The Air Force and the rest of the armed forces are not affected by the current budget dispute, but military launches require civil licenses and other government approvals that could be caught in the current partial closure.
Lockheed Martin warned in a regulatory filing that the budget stalemate threatens the launch of a commercial satellite for a Saudi Arabian client. Lockheed Martin needs government approval for a Russian-owned cargo plane to fly satellites from California to Florida for launch. The company also indicated that the timetable for some military launches planned for later this year could fall.
The partial closure has already affected at least one new rocket launch company, Exos Aerospace Systems & Technologies Inc., which earlier this month was forced to postpone a scheduled launch of its Sarge rocket from a New Mexico site. Officials of the Federal Aviation Administration were not available to handle changes to the launch license of the Texas-based company.
Some industry officials also pointed to possible obstacles for other projects that result from delays in obtaining certain export licenses from the United States government.
Other experts said the long-awaited initial launch of a commercial crew capsule by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. could slip from mid-February, in part due to problems with government personnel. The demonstration mission, without any astronaut on board, would mark a milestone for NASA's efforts to resume the launch of US crews on rockets and spacecrafts built in the United States for the first time since the space shuttle's withdrawal from space. 2011
The SpaceX rocket is scheduled to take off from a NASA platform at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA's permitting plans include keeping employees on the job, without pay, to support "space launch processing," protect human life and property, and, among other things, continue progress in the demonstration mission. of SpaceX.
NASA has indicated that its current plans imply continuing the SpaceX mission without changes.
But industry officials said it is too early to say whether NASA can adequately support the February mission, including the completion of final technical reviews. Local news reports have indicated that only a small fraction of the employees of the Kennedy Space Center are exempt from closure and remain at work.
SpaceX has said it is monitoring the impact of permits on its manifesto of other commercial launches. NASA has said it is working with SpaceX to complete "hardware tests and joint reviews" to prepare for the launch of the unmanned crew capsule "not before February."
-Doug Cameron contributed to this article.
Write to Andy Pasztor at [email protected]