SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of U.S. spy satellite

Gwen Vasquez
January 11, 2018

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 U.S. 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.

Known only by a code name, Zuma, the satellite was launched Sunday evening by SpaceX on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. But afterward, the US Strategic Command said it wasn't tracking any new satellites, an indication that the satellite somehow failed to deploy properly.

But Shotwell reiterated in a statement Tuesday morning that "after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night". "We can not comment on classified missions", Tim Paynter, Vice President for the company, said earlier. The California-based company aims to launch the Heavy by month's end, making its debut with chief executive Elon Musk's own personal Tesla Roadster on board. Compromising relationships with the military would carry significant consequences: Defense contract launches were estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030 in a 2014 government report.

"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". This was SpaceX's third launch for the US military, according to.

SpaceX's statement muddied assertions of a failure in the second stage of the Falcon 9, as a United States official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch had said.

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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. The payload of the launch is assumed to be a national security satellite or spacecraft, though whatever it really is, we may now never find out. Northrup Grumman, the aerospace contractor that hired SpaceX to sling its "Zuma" satellite into orbit, says it's "classified".

However, the key part connecting the Zuma payload to the rocket wasn't made by SpaceX. The launch had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week's extreme weather on the East Coast contributing to the most recent delay.

Originally scheduled for a November launch, Zuma was delayed by potential concern about another mission's payload fairing, the shell on top that protects a satellite during launch. Some reports claimed that the Zuma mission failed as the satellite got malfunctioned after it was separated from the Falcon 9 upper stage.

"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. The webcast then concluded.

It has been competing with other private companies to launch more military payloads.

In three weeks, the company has another Falcon 9 launch planned from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 as the company aims to put a communication satellite for Luxembourg into space.

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