Science

SpaceX, Pentagon wash hands of mysterious Zuma mission

SpaceX, Pentagon wash hands of mysterious Zuma mission

Elon Musk's SpaceX finally launched its mysterious Zuma satellite on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. However, the positive presence of the satellite in the orbit can not be confirmed. SpaceX said it would not comment beyond its statement. The flight seemed to go off without a hitch, although we weren't given full access to video throughout the entirety of the flight or detailed telemetry data considering that this was a classified mission for the U.S. Military.

"Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false", said Gwynne Shotwell, chief operating officer of Hawthorne, Calif. -based SpaceX.

SpaceX launched two other national security missions previous year: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane, known as the X-37B, in September.

SpaceX has been preparing for tests and a debut launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, and for another satellite launch as soon as late January.

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". Aerospace and defense company Northrup Grumman-which worked on the mission with SpaceX on behalf of the government-told Space.com its function was "restricted" and was being fired into "low-Earth orbit".

According to ArsTechnica, the company has stated that the rocket performed nominally in both the first and second stages during the launch. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately".

SpaceX has a six-hour window - from 1 p.m.to 7 p.m. - to fuel and test the 230-foot-tall rocket.

During a livestream of Sunday's launch, SpaceX said it got successful confirmation that the fairing - the clamshell-like covering for payloads at the tip of the rocket - did deploy. Another Falcon 9, meanwhile, is scheduled to fly in three weeks with a communication satellite for Luxembourg.

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"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", said Shotwell. 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?

That includes the debut launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center.

Originally planned to launch back in November, Zuma had a secret payload for the US government.

The expert refers to the publication Wired, which reported that the layout of the payload on the rocket Zuma said the company Northrop Grumman.

In 2015, SpaceX was certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch national security satellites.

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.

White insisted that the "classified nature of all of this" made it impossible for her to respond to any queries.

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.