SpaceX, Pentagon wash hands of mysterious Zuma mission

SpaceX, Pentagon wash hands of mysterious Zuma mission

This points out to the fact that the satellite made it to the orbit and made at least one round of the orbit.

Company President Gwynne Shotwell said the Falcon 9 rocket "did everything correctly" Sunday night and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false".

SpaceX is scheduled to test fire its highly anticipated Falcon Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center this week ahead of a planned inaugural flight later this month.

SpaceX officials said the Falcon 9 functioned as expected during Sunday's launch. The location and appearance of the sighting matched where the Falcon 9 and Zuma should have been orbiting, based on trackers' pre-flight predictions, and was similar to fuel dumps observed after other launches.

"They're concerned any failure might hinder their ability to get future national security launch contracts", said Brian Weeden, the director of programme planning for the Secure World Foundation, a space-policy think tank.

Harrison, the defense analyst, said that SpaceX is in a frustrating position because it is limited in what it can say publicly about what happened.

Falcon Heavy launches start at $90 million, compared to the starting price of $62 million for the smaller Falcon 9, according to SpaceX's website.

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The maker of the billion-dollar Zuma spy satellite, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, refused to comment on the plight of its missing satellite.

On Sunday night, the SpaceX's launch appeared to go smoothly.

"This is a classified mission", wrote Lon Rains, a Northrop Grumman spokesman, in an email to Spaceflight Now. As usual with classified government payload missions, the launch's livestream was cut off before the separation of the nose cone and the deployment of the satellite.

In the meantime, Falcon Heavy, like its smaller cousin the Falcon 9, will advance SpaceX's goal of cutting launch costs by reusing rockets. A spokesperson for National Reconnaissance Office, which owns the USA government's spy satellite fleet, said Zuma did not belong to that organization.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who previous flew into space in the 1980s aboard Columbia as a payload specialist, sided with SpaceX, stating, "The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs".

A Falcon 9 rocket is set to lift off in February from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the Spanish-owned Paz radar imaging satellite, and another Falcon 9 is slated to haul the Hispasat 30W-6 geostationary communications craft to orbit from Cape Canaveral some time in February.

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

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