What Happened to Zuma Satellite After SpaceX Launch?

Ann Santiago
January 14, 2018

SpaceX defended its rocket performance during the weekend launch of a secret USA satellite, responding Tuesday to media reports that the satellite codenamed Zuma was lost. However, post the liftoff there is no information about whether the mission was a success or a failure, and what was the objective behind sending the rocket through a private collaboration.

It was one of the most important things Elon Musk has ever launched into space: a government satellite so shrouded in secrecy that virtually everything about it is classified. A recycled Falcon 9 booster stage that first flew May 1 with the US government's classified NROL-76 payload will hoist the GovSat 1 spacecraft toward orbit, and a factory-fresh second stage will finish the job.

SpaceX launched a classified, for the USA government on Sunday ― and then something went wrong.

On Monday, lawmakers were informed that the mission was "a total loss" and the payload plummeted back into the atmosphere when it failed to detach from the rocket, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately". The second stage booster section of the Falcon 9 reportedly failed and the satellite and the rocket's second stage plummeted into the Indian Ocean after it was launched into orbit.

Closely held SpaceX, meanwhile, is heading into what is due to be a busy year.

The new rocket gives the Hawthorne space company heavy-lift capability, meaning SpaceX could hoist massive satellites for commercial customers or lucrative national security missions.

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.

Its Falcon 9 rocket "performed nominally", it said.

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. "We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks". The flight seemed to go off without a hitch, although we weren't given full access to video throughout the entirety of the flight or detailed telemetry data considering that this was a classified mission for the U.S. Military.

On the other hand, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), was not as lenient on SpaceX.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article