SpaceX-launched satellite isn't seen in orbit, Pentagon says

Cesar Mills
January 11, 2018

Zuma lifted off from SpaceX's Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL on Sunday evening at 8:00 pm ET in what appeared to be a flawless Falcon 9 launch and landing of the first stage.

"We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", a representative for the company said.

SpaceX televised the launch and landing of the first stage, but did not provide coverage of the second stage firing or orbital insertion of the satellite, as it often does, because of the classified nature of the mission.

Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret USA government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately". The rocket's second stage propels the satellite into orbit. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 past year. 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.

The wait has been years, but SpaceX's giant Falcon Heavy rocket is poised for its first launch from Kennedy Space Center. Meanwhile, the WSJ and Bloomberg are saying the satellite fell back to Earth or disintegrated because it failed to separate from the upper part of the rocket.

On Sunday night SpaceX launched the Zuma satellite into space.

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The Falcon 9 launch, which was tasked to send the Zuma payload into low-Earth orbit, was again recently delayed due to issues with the rocket's nose. The satellite was destined for low-Earth orbit, Robin Seemangal wrote for Wired late previous 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.

"This is a classified mission. We can not comment on classified missions".

Even without clarity on what went wrong, the mishap represents a possible turnabout for Musk, who was coming off a record year of launches and rounds of fundraising that rendered his closely held company one of the most valuable startups in the world. First SpaceX will perform what is known as a wet dress rehearsal, filling the rocket with fuel and performing all systems checks short of engine ignition.

Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who heads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, said in a statement Wednesday that "space is a risky business" but his panel remains "committed to providing rigorous oversight that accounts for that risk and ensures that we can meet all of our national security space requirements as the Air Force looks to competitively procure space launch services in the future".

While the Falcon 9 had the Zuma satellite, the Falcon heavy will have an interesting payload of its own: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster. After an extensive Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.

Other reports by GizPress

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