fate of a top secret spy satellite for the US government is shrouded
in mystery after it seemingly vanished after being launched by Elon
secretive payload — codenamed Zuma — is worth hundreds of millions
of dollars and was supposed to show that Musk’s SpaceX was a
credible and reliable low cost launch provider for the Pentagon.
the satellite is missing amid fears it was totally destroyed in a
Wall Street Journal is reporting that US
politicians had been briefed that it may have burned up in the
atmosphere after failing to separate from the upper part of the
SpaceX spokesman told the Dow Jones news service: “We do not comment
on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data
indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally.”
Zuma spacecraft was attached to one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and
launched from the Cape Canaveral air force Station in Florida. The
Falcon 9 returned back to base without incident.
satellite hasn’t been spotted in orbit by the U.S. Strategic
Command, adding to the doubt over whether the mission was a success.
spokesman for The Strategic Command, which monitors more than 20,000
man-made objects in space, told Bloomberg it was not tracking any
new satellites since the launch.
the engine powering the rocket’s expendable second stage stops
firing, whatever it is carrying is supposed to separate and proceed
on its own trajectory — but if a satellite isn’t set free at the
right time, or is damaged upon release, it can be dragged back
adding to the confusion, experts believe the lack of official word
on what happened means there could be an alternative sequence of
way, SpaceX was relying on a successful launch of Zuma to convince
sceptical Pentagon chiefs to back it as it competes for more
national-security launches against its primary rival, a joint
venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
than a day after the launch there is uncertainty over exactly what
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January
classified intelligence satellite, built by Northrop Grumman Corp,
failed to separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket and
is assumed to have broken up or plunged into the sea, said the two
officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
and reusing rockets is the main aim of SpaceX scientists, who argue
that it reduces the cost of launches that would then allow them to
fly more missions.
mission was the first Elon Musk’s Space X had attempted this year.
It plans to launch as many as 25 by the end of 2018, up from 18 last
said last week SpaceX would launch “the world’s most powerful
rocket” later this month with his own electric car on board.
SpaceX’s growing list of successful missions, including regularly
landing, refurbishing and reusing the main stages of Falcon 9
boosters, industry and US government officials have confided to the Wall
Street Journal the intelligence community
continue to have concerns about relying on Mr. Musk’s corrupt and
non-traditional business practices.