ibusinesslines.com March 20, 2018

SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of U.S. spy satellite

10 January 2018, 05:37 | Justin Tyler

After delays, SpaceX set to launch mysterious Zuma mission from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX launch SpaceX Project Zuma Elon Musk US government mission SpaceX Falcon 9 Tesla Boeing SpaceX Falcon Heavy Lockheed Martin classified missions

The static fire test means that the heavy duty rocket is nearly ready for its first launch, the payload of which will be one of Musk's Tesla Roadsters. Then Bloomberg, after speaking to USA officials who were briefed on the mission and who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said the second-stage booster of the Falcon 9 had failed, and that the satellite either broke up or fell into the sea.

A SpaceX spokesperson told Business Insider, "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

"If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. "We can not comment on classified missions".

SpaceX's Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track. The X-37B space plane is still in orbit on its classified OTV-5 mission.

Falcon Heavy, which carries 27 engines that can generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, is scheduled for a demonstration launch later this month carrying a cherry-red Tesla Roadster that will be placed into an elliptical Mars orbit.

Last week, the rocket was raised to a vertical position on Pad 39A before being lowered to make way for the Falcon 9 Zuma mission, which launched on Sunday evening. Some media reports, citing anonymous government officials, have reported that the Northrop Grumman-built Zuma spacecraft may have failed after it launched into orbit.

Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft, would only say: "This is a classified program".

During the launch, SpaceX cut off the broadcast after confirmation that the rockets nose cone had separated a few minutes after launch. A fairing failure could have prevented the satellite's proper deployment.

SpaceX launch SpaceX Project Zuma Elon Musk US government mission SpaceX Falcon 9 Tesla Boeing SpaceX Falcon Heavy Lockheed Martin classified missions
The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 last year

Zuma was built by defense contractors Northrop Grumman, though it is unknown which U.S. agency would have been using the satellite.

"On this mission the customer provided its own payload adapter, so separation may be its problem and not SpaceX's problem", McDowell tweeted.

Or, the Bloomberg and WSJ accounts are correct, and there was some kind of failure during the second stage.

Simberg said separation failure is one of the most common causes of failed launches.

This is not the first time a payload was lost on a SpaceX mission. Eastern time from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company chose SpaceX as the launch provider, noting late a year ago that it took "great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma". "But they need to protect the mission, of course". This particular launch was so shrouded in secrecy that the sponsoring government agency was not identified, which is usually the case.

Needless to say, all this confusion, not to mention the secretive nature of the mission, is bound to lead to conspiratorial theories - that that satellite was in fact delivered successfully, and that this is all a rouse to hide the fact that a very expensive spy satellite is now in orbit.

"The biggest risk is the folks at United Launch Alliance are going to use this as a club against SpaceX and argue for their Atlas V and Delta IV (rockets) as an alternative", said Quilty. It's essentially the nation gaining super heavy-lift capability at no cost to taxpayers.

"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.

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