Elon Musk's SpaceX Loses 'Zuma' Government Payload

Javier Stokes
January 14, 2018

The Falcon 9 rocket was able to make a successful powered landing back on the ground after separating from the upper stage.

The mission's failure and the reluctance of government authorities to explain about the reason for the failure though has hurt SpaceX, who has taken the space industry by storm.

According to Wired Magazine, Northrop Grumman supplied the adapter fitting connecting the Zuma payload with the Falcon 9 rocket.

As for Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the Zuma satellite, it simply added "we can not comment on classified missions".

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

Shotwell pushed back on reports that seemed to implicate SpaceX with the satellite's demise, saying "information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false". "Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible".

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SpaceX is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month.

"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", she said.

Shotwell's statement emailed to reporters was an unusual one for SpaceX, which rarely comments on planned Falcon 9 flights before the week of launch.

"There's a long tradition of not commenting on problems with classified missions, unless it blows up in such a way that everyone can see it", said John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. 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. Later, the team will closed the satellite up inside the payload fairing of Falcon 9.

The satellite for the secret mission was built by Northrop Grumman Corp.

The conflicting reports, coupled with the seemingly incongruous aftermath, are adding a rocket-load of mystery to an already mysterious launch. The mission was initiated on a Sunday at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located in Florida. Rumours have arisen that the mission was carrying a spy satellite of Pentagon and that it even had the capability to fix other satellites. Currently, SpaceX is facing fierce competition from ULA, a launch provider operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which have long relationships with various elements of the US government.

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