SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of United States spy satellite

SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of United States spy satellite

Kenneth Drake
January 11, 2018

But SpaceX is confident that there is no issue with their Falcon 9 booster and the rocket's upper stage successfully carried the Zuma satellite into space.

That would explain SpaceX's account of a flawless launch, while also squaring with accounts the satellite is a total loss.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of California-based SpaceX. Northrop Grumman VP of Strategic Communications Tim Paynter, meanwhile, said that he could not comment on classified missions.

Known only by a code name, Zuma, the satellite was launched Sunday evening by SpaceX on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

One possible key to SpaceX's strong defense of its rocket could involve the question of who supplied a key piece of hardware: the payload adapter, which attaches a payload to the rocket. said Northrop Grumman provided the adapter to "mate" Zuma to the Falcon 9. Its secret US government-sponsored payload, though, did not fare as well, according to sources.

It was not immediately clear if the failure of this mission was due to problems with the SpaceX rocket, or with the Zuma spacecraft.

A top-secret government mission launched by SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, may have failed on Sunday night.

This was SpaceX's third classified mission for the USA government, a lucrative customer.

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The secretive nature of the Zuma payload makes reliable details about the mission hard to come by or verify.

The launch was SpaceX's first in what is due to be a busy year. According to the LA Times a spokesperson for Grumman declined to provide an explanation and said, "This is a classified mission". 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.

Because of Zuma's secrecy, SpaceX didn't live stream the entire mission as it typically does.

Shotwell said the Zuma mission should have no impact on its upcoming Falcon 9 launch in three weeks or the test launch of the Falcon Heavy.

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

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. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 a year ago.

SpaceX competes for military launches with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp, which was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly.