Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Is Zuma Lost? SpaceX Said Its Rocket Did Everything Right

Is Zuma Lost? SpaceX Said Its Rocket Did Everything Right

Company President Gwynne Shotwell said the Falcon 9 rocket "did everything correctly" Sunday night and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false".

SpaceX launches Zuma from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 7. Rumors associated with the same stated that the mission lost control during the second stage of separation from the rocket and fell back into the Earth.

Asked to comment, SpaceX - which is based in Hawthorne, Calif., and whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - issued a statement Monday afternoon: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

As far as we can tell from reporting by both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the Zuma satellite failed to successfully separate from the upper stage.

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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.

Matt Desch, chief executive officer of satellite operator Iridium Communications Inc., said that as the launch contractor, Northrop Grumman deserves the blame for the loss last weekend of the satellite, which is presumed to have crashed into the ocean in the secretive mission code-named Zuma.

That means something made it into orbit and went around at least once, though it doesn't necessarily mean the satellite is still there.

News reports said the satellite, named Zuma, may have plunged back toward Earth.

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

The mystery surrounding the fate of a secret military satellite deepened Thursday when the Pentagon refused to answer even simple questions about whether the mission to launch it had gone awry.

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". Rep. Mike Rogers, who leads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, added rather bluntly that "space is a risky business", but that his committee will continue to provide oversight for future missions tasked with protecting national security. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 past year.

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, said it was for the United States government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details. "We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks".

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The satellite launch was originally scheduled for November 15, but SpaceX pushed it back to review how the Falcon 9 delivers its payload.

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