SpaceX launches secretive Zuma mission

Greg Lawrence
January 12, 2018

She continued: "Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight".

Both SpaceX and Northrup Grumman have refused to comment on the status of the mission.

After launch, SpaceX returned the tall portion of the Falcon 9 rocket to an upright landing at Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell pushed back against reports that her company's Falcon 9 rocket may have malfunctioned during Sunday's launch of a classified spy satellite.

On launch day, safely tucked away in a protective payload fairing will be Musk's 2008 Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports vehicle that boosted his energy company during its formative years.

Zuma mission launch on January 7 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This article was originally published at 7:20 p.m.

Regardless of the sensitivity of a mission, the Pentagon would be expected to disclose some level of information such as whether an investigation is under way.

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, said it was for the U.S. government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

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Marco Langbroek, an amateur satellite tracker from the Netherlands who was closely watching Zuma, said evidence shows the rocket's upper stage did achieve orbit. "We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks".

The loss, if it was determined to be a failure of SpaceX hardware, could be a "real threat" to the company's future defense business, said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. However, if the Zuma failed to separate from the upper stage as multiple reports suggest, how does at least part of the blame not lay with SpaceX? "Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date".

The GovSat 1 satellite is set to launch on the next Falcon 9 rocket mission. However, SpaceX censored critical portions of the launch, including the separation of the nose cone surrounding the top-secret Zuma satellite, and the satellite's actual deployment into earth's orbit.

The objective of Zuma's mission was never disclosed, and no government or military agency claimed ownership.

The secret satellite, called Zuma, was built for the USA government, although it is unclear which part of it.

Big questions remain unanswered as officials remained tight-lipped about a billion-dollar satellite that could be somewhere in orbit - or crashed into the sea. The attachment fixture is normally included in the launch service purchased by the payload's owner.

"I'd have to refer you to SpaceX, who conducted the launch", said Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, during a briefing with reporters Thursday.

Already, rumors abound that Zuma was a satellite meant to monitor or intercept nuclear activities by North Korea and that the story about its failure is a matter of subterfuge.

Despite the launch being shrouded in secrecy, SpaceX seemed to have successfully carried a mysterious government satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday. The spokesman for the corporation said that the company isn't at liberty to comment on a classified mission.

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