SpaceX Launches Zuma Mission, Lands First Stage at the Cape

Greg Lawrence
January 8, 2018

The Falcon 9 rocket will carry Zuma, a USA government spacecraft, into low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX officials said Thursday evening that the launch is targeted for Sunday with the two-hour launch window opening at 8 p.m.

Contracted by Northrop Grumman for an unspecified USA agency, the mission was known to be headed into a low Earth orbit, roughly 250 miles up, on a northeasterly trajectory angled about 50 degrees relative to the equator.

The Falcon 9 rocket's reusable first stage will attempt a controlled landing at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force.

The company's first successful Falcon 9 rocket launch of 2018 was also probably the most secretive in the company's history.

SpaceX says its Falcon 9 rocket"performed nominally after Sunday's launch

The launch was initially supposed to take place in November but was postponed so the California-based company could take a closer look at potential problems with the fairing, or the nose cone part of the rocket that protects the payload.

The launch is SpaceX's first in what is expected to be a busy year.

"Everybody involved with the mission is pretty tight-lipped about it", reported a year ago. The rocket was rolled to the launch pad for tests in late December, and a critical static firing of its 27 engines should come within a week or so of the Zuma mission.

It is a big month for Musk's space exploration company.

Both of those will launch on used Falcon 9 boosters, as SpaceX continues to re-fly rockets it has landed on previous missions.

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