Secret Zuma Satellite Rumored to Be Lost

by Fredrick Graves January 11, 2018, 0:23
Secret Zuma Satellite Rumored to Be Lost

SpaceX launched a classified, multibillion-dollar spy satellite for the USA government on Sunday ― and then something went wrong. SpaceX was originally set to launch the Zuma mission in November, but the company tweeted at the time that it was postponing the mission "to take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer".

SpaceX on Tuesday defended the performance of one of its rockets used to launch a USA spy satellite that is believed to have been lost after failing to reach orbit, adding that no changes were anticipated to its upcoming launch schedule.

"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", James Gleeson, a spokesman for SpaceX, said in an email. "We can not comment on classified missions", Tim Paynter, Vice President for the company, said earlier.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the classified Zuma payload, January 7, 2018. SpaceX says not it - only that if it or others find out differently, it'll let us know. Northrop Grumman made the satellite, which it said was for the government and was destined for low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

SpaceX televised the launch and landing of the first stage, but did not provide coverage of the second stage firing or orbital insertion of the satellite, as it often does, because of the classified nature of the mission. The sources would not confirm what exactly the payload was, saying it was classified.

But even if SpaceX's Falcon 9 performed perfectly, it is not a good time for the company, founded by Musk in 2002, to have something happen to such an important payload.

Until government officials are willing to make a public statement about Zuma, its fate will remain a mystery.

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Only now, what was supposed to be a triumph for Musk and his Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has turned into a potential setback after the satellite went missing. "We can not discuss classified programs". SpaceX, along with Boeing Co., also has a contract with Nasa to fly astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the "Commercial Crew" program, with the first crucial test flight slated for the second quarter.

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

In a statement, the Department of Defense said, "As a matter of policy we do not comment on classified missions".

Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track. The California-based company aims to launch the Heavy by month's end, making its debut with chief executive Elon Musk's own personal Tesla Roadster on board.

The launch broadcast was cut off shortly after the rocket's nose cone separated, which is standard under secret national security missions. So, whether the Zuma mission was a success or a failure, is still unknown.

Zuma was SpaceX's third military launch.

A U.S. official and two congressional aides, all familiar with the launch, said on condition of anonymity that the second-stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster rocket failed.

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