SpaceX, Pentagon wash hands of mysterious Zuma mission

Chelsea West
January 14, 2018

SpaceX isn't commenting on the allegedly failed mission, however.

Christensen noted that SpaceX has been unambiguous in defending its role in Sunday's launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. A second engine was meant to propel stage two-which carried Zuma-into low-Earth orbit. The Zuma payload was contracted for launch by Northrop Grumman for the US government, Northrop then selected SpaceX as the carrier of the payload.

Reports coming from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are claiming that Zuma burned up upon reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.

On Tuesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell released an even stronger statement and pushed back against reports that a second-stage malfunction may have been to blame, saying that "after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches.

The new rocket gives the Hawthorne space company heavy-lift capability, meaning SpaceX could hoist massive satellites for commercial customers or lucrative national security missions.

Teams will watch closely as the three-core launch vehicle is loaded with propellant at pad 39A on Thursday, then briefly fire its 27 Merlin engines for the first time.

The Falcon Heavy also benefits from the development of its predecessor, the Falcon 9, said Phil Larson, assistant dean at the University of Colorado, Boulder's College of Engineering.

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Its Falcon 9 rocket "performed nominally", it said.

A network of amateur satellite trackers are on the lookout for Zuma in case it is still in orbit, but they are working off an estimate of its expected location, and it could take weeks to find the spacecraft, assuming it is still in space and is orbiting where predicted.

Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.

"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", Shotwell said.

While the authorities are refraining from discussing the fate of Zuma mission, SpaceX is planning on increasing the feasibility of the rockets to make it reusable like airplanes which can significantly decrease the cost incurred during any mission.

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

On the other hand, ArsTechnica notes that the fairing for Zuma was also supplied by Northrop Grumman.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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