Science

It's not official, but sources say the secretive Zuma satellite was lost

It's not official, but sources say the secretive Zuma satellite was lost

Zuma lifted off from SpaceX's Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL on Sunday evening at 8:00 pm ET in what appeared to be a flawless Falcon 9 launch and landing of the first stage.

She went on to say the classified nature of the cargo kept her from saying anything else. Northrop Grumman, the manufacture, said due to the classified nature of the mission it could not comment.

Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret US government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX. Defense company Northrop Grumman requested the launch in behalf of the government, further casting a veil of secrecy on the missions.

So if there was a problem, who's at fault? "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", Shotwell said in a e-mail.

A government official and two congressional aides, all of which are familiar with the matters of the Falcon 9 launch, anonymously said that the second stage of the rocket failed.

SpaceX, however, never officially confirmed mission success. Whether or not that has something to do with this mission, we just don't know yet. The company later said it had cleared the issue. The government agency that ordered the spacecraft has not been disclosed.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who heads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, said in a statement Wednesday that "space is a risky business" but his panel remains "committed to providing rigorous oversight that accounts for that risk and ensures that we can meet all of our national security space requirements as the Air Force looks to competitively procure space launch services in the future".

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The Falcon 9 Zuma mission finally took off, but interestingly, SpaceX's live webcast of the launch was cut off right before the rocket deployed the Zuma payload into orbit. The odd explanation seems to have to do with a device within the rocket called the payload adapter, the interface between the launcher and satellite.

"The most important issue here is whether the Pentagon will rethink its reliability as a provider of launch services", said Thompson, whose think tank receives funding from Boeing and Lockheed.

"Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule", Shotwell added.

In short, SpaceX appears to be shrugging its shoulders as it prepares to launch yet another Falcon 9 rocket and its first Mars-capable rocket, Falcon Heavy (a launch vehicle that's essentially three times as powerful as a Falcon 9). Then there's SpaceX - the private launch company contracted to send the satellite into orbit.

The end goal for the Hawthorne, California-based company will be to prove the utility of the rocket that can lift more than twice the payload of competitor United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.

Falcon Heavy is SpaceX's massive new rocket that will boast three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.