SpaceX says rocket worked fine as spy satellite reported lost

Jan 11, 2018, 00:53
SpaceX says rocket worked fine as spy satellite reported lost

During missions for commercial satellite customers, SpaceX typically returns to the webcast to confirm that the payload has separated from the second stage, but Zuma was a classified mission so the lack of further messages wasn't surprising.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched its first satellite for the USA military with its Falcon 9 rocket in May of past year.

"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", said the statement from Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report late Monday that the billion-dollar payload did not make it into orbit and was "presumed to be a total loss", citing unnamed government and industry officials.

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.

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The satellite is assumed to be "a write-off", one of the officials said. When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months. But second-stage information was kept to a minimum because of all the secrecy surrounding the flight.

According to a source, the satellite did not reach the designated altitude and instead, fell back down, along with the expended second stage of the SpaceX rocket. "We can not comment on a classified mission", he said.

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. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 past year. That broke up a longtime and lucrative monopoly held by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. known as United Launch Alliance, which has had 100% mission success in its 123 launches.

It was not immediately clear if the failure of this mission was due to problems with the SpaceX rocket, or with the Zuma spacecraft.

On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years.

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Falcon Heavy is SpaceX's massive new rocket that will boast three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", James Gleeson, a spokesman for SpaceX, said in an email.

Also, the company continued with preparations for future launches, including rolling the Falcon Heavy rocket back out to a different launch pad in Florida for additional tests.

This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.

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