11 January, 2018
Late on Sunday night, SpaceX launched a satellite manufactured by Northrop Grumman out of Florida.
- SpaceX defended its rocket performance during the weekend launch of a secret US satellite, responding Tuesday to media reports that the satellite codenamed Zuma was lost.
"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".
Company president Gwynne Shotwell said the rocket "did everything correctly" and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false", according to the Associated Press. Northrop Grumman VP of Strategic Communications Tim Paynter, meanwhile, said that he could not comment on classified missions.
On Sunday, January 7, SpaceX successfully launched the secret Zuma mission through its Falcon 9 rocket.
The U.S. government commissioned SpaceX for the classified Zuma mission, but its details have been kept under wraps since past year. But all these are only rumors and due to the lack of reliable information as well as secretive nature of the mission, what happened to Zuma is still unclear.
SpaceX - which was founded and led by Musk, who also heads the electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc - is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month. "This is a classified mission", a spokesperson told NBC News.
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Only now, what was supposed to be a triumph for Musk and his Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has turned into a potential setback after the satellite went missing.
The nature of the mission remains shrouded in mystery.
The loss, if it was determined to be a failure of SpaceX hardware, could be a "real threat" to the company's future defense business, said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. SpaceX, along with Boeing Co, also has a contract with NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the "Commercial Crew" program, with the first crucial test flight scheduled for the second quarter. The Falcon Heavy is perhaps the most important rocket ever created by SpaceX, as it is the one planned to be used for missions to the moon and Mars.
While the landing was nearly ideal, the company did not go on to confirm that the mission was a success, at least officially, according to Ars Technica.
As it usually does for classified launches, Loren Grush reports forThe Verge, SpaceX censored coverage of the launch, cutting its livestream prior to nose cone separation that would reveal the payload.
A USA official and two congressional aides, all familiar with the launch, said on condition of anonymity that the second-stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster rocket failed. "But on this mission the customer provided its own payload adapter, so separation may be its problem and not SpaceX's problem", Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted on Monday night. After a rigorous Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.