What Happened to Zuma Satellite After SpaceX Launch?

Posted January 14, 2018

Zuma may not have separated from the upper part of the Falcon 9 rocket and instead plunged back into the Earth's atmosphere.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Sunday with the US government's mysterious Zuma payload. Aerospace and defense company Northrop 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". However, the agency confirmed that the Falcon 9 performed as it was supposed to after going through the data review of the mission. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately". "Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible".

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.

That would explain SpaceX's account of a flawless launch, while also squaring with the satellite is a total loss.

"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.

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. The Falcon 9 won US Air Force certification for national-security space missions in May 2015, breaking a lock long-held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches. A spokesperson for the huge defense contractor declined to comment on Zuma after Sunday night's launch. As usual with classified government payload missions, the launch's livestream was cut off before the separation of the nose cone and the deployment of the satellite.

SpaceX has pushed back an historic test of the Falcon Heavy, the world's largest rocket.

Usually to launch satellites on Falcon 9 SpaceX used the adapters, and fairings of their own production, although official guidance on useful load for the Falcon 9 it is noted that the adapter may be provided by the manufacturer of the satellite.

It was one of the most important things Elon Musk has ever launched into space: a government satellite so shrouded in secrecy that virtually everything about it is classified. Rumours have arisen that the mission was carrying a spy satellite of Pentagon and that it even had the capability to fix other satellites.