Tuesday, 16 January, 2018

Speculation Rampant As Secretive Zuma Spy Satellite Declared A 'Total Loss'

The launch is SpaceX’s first in what was expected to be a busy year. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 last year A Highly Classified Spy Satellite Has Been Destroyed. Probably.
Doris Mccormick | 10 January, 2018, 05:38

SpaceX launched the secret Zuma spacecraft on Sunday night from the company's Space Launch Complex 40 pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", said the statement from Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.

The photos, posted on Twitter, show a brilliant spiral that appeared in the night sky shortly after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Zuma satellite on a mystery mission for the US government.

The Wall Street Journal report was further called into question when amateur satellite trackers spotted the rocket's second stage in orbit - a sign it successfully delivered the payload. But several news outlets, citing anonymous sources including congressional aides, reported that the Zuma satellite, which Caceres said was likely worth in the range of $500 million, had crashed into the ocean.

The Journal indicated this type of language points to normal rocket operations, meaning the cause of any issue came from elsewhere. The company only said it's classified and wouldn't comment. SpaceX founder Elon Musk even tweeted about it, dropping a super-sweet photo of the launch. However, those details were not immediately known.

Previously, SpaceX has launched two classified payloads for the USA government during the past year.

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Prior to launch, some trade press reports indicated Northrop Grumman provided the adapter attaching the payload to the rocket.

For example, Northrop Grumman provided its own payload adaptor for the Zuma mission - a device that physically separates the satellite from the upper part of the rocket during deployment. The rocket launched properly, and the first-stage booster completed an autonomous landing on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

He noted that USA military's Joint Space Operations Center, which tracks objects in space, did catalog an object designated "payload", meaning that something completed at least one orbit.

The satellite's mission and fate, however, sparked intense interest in industry circles and on Capitol Hill, partly because of what is believed to be a multibillion-dollar price tag and the apparent rush to get it into orbit. "The nature of any classified mission is limited information". And indeed, as Shotwell made clear, the incident has not prompted any launch delays or a review of the company's launch systems. It's up to the whole litany of government teams and private sector teams to talk about this as they can.

Despite speculation that the government agency that contracted the launch is purposely misleading the public, McDowell said that's highly unlikely.

"They're going to have to average launching two missions a month or more", said Marco Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies at Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight. "It will be a historic launch for the United States of America. It will open up the aperture for what we can do in space and lead this whole new commercial quiver of rockets coming online".

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