Secret Zuma Satellite Rumored to Be Lost

11 Enero, 2018, 00:51 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Reuters

Last May was the first time SpaceX launched its first satellite for the USA military with its Falcon 9 rocket.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of California-based SpaceX.

While the night launch seemed to go smoothly with the first stage once again returning to land, reports from the Washington Post and other outlets suggest the satellite did not make it into orbit and was a total loss, although Musk said the second stage performed as expected.

SpaceX/Flickr (public domain) A Falcon 9 rocket launched by SpaceX leaves behind an exhaust plume as it races toward space with a top-secret government payload code-named Zuma. "Zuma satellite from @northropgrumman may be dead in orbit after separation from @SpaceX Falcon 9, sources say", de Selding tweeted. The company chose SpaceX as the launch provider, noting late previous year that it took "great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma". But second-stage information was kept to a minimum because of all the secrecy surrounding the flight. "We can not comment on classified missions". One of the aides told Bloomberg that both the satellite and the rocket's second stage fell into the ocean.

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.

SpaceX, however, never officially confirmed mission success.

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In May 2015, the U.S. Air Force privately certified SpaceX to launch U.S. military and spy satellites, breaking a monopoly by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Actions taken by SpaceX on Monday indicate its confidence in the rocket's performance during the Zuma launch. The company later said it had cleared the issue.

"We have nothing to add to the satellite catalog at this time", Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the command, said in an email when asked if the new satellite was in orbit. In the static fire test, SpaceX engineers will ignite all 27 of the heavy-lift rocket's engines almost simultaneously for the first time, holding the rocket down on the launch pad while they do.

Shotwell said in her Tuesday statement that the company "does not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule" at the end of the month since the data reviewed so far "indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed".

In short, SpaceX appears to be shrugging its shoulders as it prepares to launch yet another Falcon 9 rocket and its first Mars-capable rocket, Falcon Heavy (a launch vehicle that's essentially three times as powerful as a Falcon 9).

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