SpaceX says rocket worked fine as spy satellite reported lost

The Falcon's first stage reportedly completed its job, lifting the rocket off the pad and toward space, then separated and landed back at Cape Canaveral, but it's the second stage, which propels the satellite into orbit, that is being questioned as information on it is minimal considering the secrecy surrounding the flight. The satellite was destined for low-Earth orbit, Robin Seemangal wrote for Wired late past year, and unlike most launches, the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman, not SpaceX, supplied the payload adapter used to secure the satellite during launch and release it into orbit.

In response to a query on Monday afternoon, a SpaceX spokesperson told Ars, "We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally". The company only said it's classified and wouldn't comment.

"Zuma satellite from @northropgrumman may be dead in orbit after separation from @SpaceX Falcon 9, sources say", de Selding tweeted. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately".

Northrop Grumman - which provided the satellite for an undisclosed US government entity - said it can not comment on classified missions. Commentary during a webcast of the launch appeared to confirm that the fairings housing the payload were successfully deployed.

The satellite, code-named Zuma, failed to reach orbit and fell back into Earth's atmosphere after separating from the company's Falcon 9 rocket.


With a price tag of $62 million, the Falcon 9 was designed as a two-stage rocket, becoming the world's first orbital-class rocket with reflight capability.

The secretive nature of the Zuma payload makes reliable details about the mission hard to come by or verify. But as of now, Northrop Grumman has denied to make any comment regarding the Zuma mission and its fate. Anthony Capaccio and Dana Hull reporting for Bloomberg cite a U.S. official and two congressional aides reporting the launch failed, with one aide stating that the satellite and second-stage rocket fell back into the ocean. SpaceX has also declined to give details about the spacecraft.

"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". When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months. 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.

This is not the first time a payload was lost on a SpaceX mission. In addition to the SatTrackCam Leiden analysis, the government did allow Shotwell to make that statement today, apparently not wanting the failure to weigh against SpaceX, but also intent on keeping Zuma's mission secret. The company's spokesman Lon Rains said, "This is a classified mission".

SpaceX's statement muddied assertions of a failure in the second stage of the Falcon 9, as a U.S. official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch had said.


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