Published: Thu, January 11, 2018
Research | By Francis Brooks

SpaceX claims malfunctioning rocket worked just as it was supposed to

SpaceX claims malfunctioning rocket worked just as it was supposed to

A veil of secrecy has been drawn over the fate of a multibillion-dollar USA spy satellite that is said to have failed despite the successful launch and return of the rocket that took it into space.

SpaceX's review so far indicates that 'no design, operational or other changes are needed, ' Shotwell said.

"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly Sunday night". Northrop Grumman declined comment, citing inability to comment on classified missions.

A SpaceX rocket worked fine in its weekend launch of a secretive government satellite, named Zuma, the company said Tuesday after reports the payload did not make it into orbit.

Launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with a secret mission code-named Zuma, the satellite likely plummeted back into the atmosphere after failing to separate from the rocket, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Northrop Grumman, the company that built the Zuma payload, told Business Insider in November that the United States government tasked it with picking a launch company, and it chose SpaceX. The Zuma mission was a success on at least one count: SpaceX successfully landed the rocket's first stage for reuse in a future launch, a key step in its goal to drive down the cost of access to space. 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.

A military satellite launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp appears to have crashed into the sea after a malfunction while being boosted into orbit, a potential setback for the billionaire's rocket program.

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The secretive nature of the launch makes it hard to discern additional details. But as of now, Northrop Grumman has denied to make any comment regarding the Zuma mission and its fate.

We spoke to a Northrup Grummam rep by phone, who said: "This is a classified mission. But on this mission the customer provided its own payload adapter, so separation may be its problem and not SpaceX's problem", Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted on Monday night.

The massive Falcon Heavy, which has already been staged on a Cape Canaveral launchpad, stands 230 feet tall and consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores.

Even without clarity on what went wrong, the mishap represents a possible turnabout for Musk, who was coming off a record year of launches and rounds of fundraising that rendered his closely held company one of the most valuable startups in the world. The company chose SpaceX as the launch provider, noting late past year that it took "great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma".

SpaceX is led by Elon Musk and has been rapidly expanding its launch business, which includes NASA, national security and commercial missions. However, the company has completed more than ten successful supply missions to ISS.

It has been competing with other private companies to launch more military payloads.

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