With the U.S. government shutdown surpassing record lengths, we asked the question: does this impact the number of launches stemming from the United States in January? After all, we have the…
With the U.S. government shutdown surpassing record lengths, we asked the question: Does the U.S. government shutdown impact the country’s space launch activities in January? After all, we have the information to look back.
As you can see, the answer is: not really. At least, not for the month of January.
Through January 15 of this year, one U.S. launch service provider has conducted one launch. If we look back at the previous four years, we see this is pretty normal. In 2016, not even one U.S. launch had been conducted by mid-January yet. Two other years showed just one launch conducted in January by U.S. launch service providers.
Since 2018 was a record-breaking year for launches overall and for the U.S. specifically in nearly three decades, we expected to see more launch activity from the U.S. in 2018. And we do. But we’ve yet to determine whether those numbers are part of a growing trend or are outliers.
Why there doesn’t appear to be an impact may be a case of just how low the numbers historically have been for U.S. launches in January. It may be that January 2019 would have seen numbers as high as 2018’s, but the shutdown impacted launch activities severely. Falcon 9 Crew Demo delays make a small case for that.
The fact that the single launch that occurred was from Vandenberg Air Force Base, where most of the operations are using military personnel and resources (minimal shutdown impact) to conduct range activities may help with that case, too. Maybe a month is too short of a period for this kind of thing. Or, it may be that January 2019 was always going to be as low as it appears to be today.
We’ll keep watching.