Strange Sky Spiral May Come from Secretive SpaceX Zuma Launch
Jan 10 2018 by Michele Stevens
This was SpaceX's third classified mission for the USA government, a lucrative customer.
Contradictory accounts are emerging in the wake of the apparent failure of the Zuma mission - a secretive multibillion-dollar spy satellite that was launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida this past weekend.
The conflicting reports, coupled with the seemingly incongruous aftermath, are adding a rocket-load of mystery to an already mysterious launch. Meanwhile, the WSJ and Bloomberg are saying the satellite fell back to Earth or disintegrated because it failed to separate from the upper part of the rocket.
In a statement, the Department of Defense said, "As a matter of policy we do not comment on classified missions". A Northrop Grumman representative said the company can not comment on the mission due to its classified nature.
But SpaceX suggested that it was not at fault, telling ABC News its rocket, named Falcon 9, "did everything correctly".
Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track.
Because of Zuma's secrecy, SpaceX didn't live stream the entire mission as it typically does.
Posted late Monday night in its official Twitter feed, a SpaceX picture showed the Falcon 9 launch and its first-stage landing. On September 1, 2016 a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded while preparing to test fire its engines, destroying the Amos 6 communications satellite atop the rocket that was to be used by Facebook. However, the company has completed more than ten successful supply missions to ISS.
The mishap comes on the heels of a particularly productive year for the private space company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, who plans to launch Falcon Heavy, created to carry humans into space, later this year.
Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches. These rumors are all the more interesting because we have no idea what Zuma was for or even what government agency was going to operate the satellite.
Correction: The headline and first sentence of this article have been updated to reflect that the Zuma spacecraft failed to enter a stable orbit.