SpaceX Insists Falcon 9 Performed Nominally for Zuma Launch

SpaceX Insists Falcon 9 Performed Nominally for Zuma Launch

The launch of the Falcon 9 for the classified Zuma mission, which was repeatedly delayed from its initial target date in November previous year, kicked off SpaceX's 2018.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. As it is a secret mission, neither SpaceX nor Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the Zuma satellite, have disclosed any information about top-secret Zuma mission.

This was SpaceX's third classified mission for the US government, AP reported. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible.

So if there was a problem, who's at fault? One of the aides told Bloomberg that both the satellite and the rocket's second stage fell into the ocean.

The Wall Street Journal quotes unidentified congressional officials who were briefed on the mission as saying the satellite apparently did not separate from the second stage, and plunged through the atmosphere and burned up.

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.

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SpaceX said a review of the data revealed a successful launch and there's no reason to suspect the Falcon 9 performed otherwise. 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. 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. 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. But afterward, the US Strategic Command said it wasn't tracking any new satellites, an indication that the satellite somehow failed to deploy properly. "Info blackout renders any conclusion - launcher issue?"

SpaceX's Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track.

The launch was SpaceX's first in what is due to be a busy year. All three cores of Falcon Heavy have been test fired individually at SpaceX's facilities in McGregor, Texas, but they have yet to light up together.

But Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at Teal Group, said SpaceX's cheaper launch costs and faster turnarounds for missions will still probably work in its favor with the Air Force, even if the Zuma mission were determined to be a launch failure.

United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing created more than a decade ago to launch sensitive satellites for the Pentagon and intelligence community, has always been under fire from Elon Musk's SpaceX, the tenacious upstart that plowed its way into the market by waging war in Washington, D.C.

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

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