After Zuma, SpaceX keeps pace in preps for next Falcon 9 launch

14 January, 2018, 00:10 | Author: Lester Mason
  • This still image from video courtesy of SpaceX shows the launch of SpaceX's secretive US government payload known as Zuma on January 7 from Cape Canaveral Florida

The Zuma payload is believed to have fallen back through the Earth's atmosphere due to the failure to separate, as the second stage of the rocket is created to fall back to earth and burn up on re-entry.

To add to the mystery status of Zuma mission, the satellite is still categorized as a payload by the USA space-based surveillance system.

The Falcon 9 rocket launched as scheduled on January 7 and the first stage of the booster landed in SpaceX's Cape Canaveral facility.

As for Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the Zuma satellite, it simply added "we can not comment on classified missions". However, the agency confirmed that the Falcon 9 performed as it was supposed to after going through the data review of the mission.

The company could not comment further, Shotwell said, because of Zuma's classified payload.

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.

"Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule", Shotwell said.

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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.

Last year, SpaceX launched two national security missions with its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. The mission, backed by the United States government, has become the talk of the town because neither the agency behind the liftoff nor the Pentagon are taking responsibility or sharing details about it post the liftoff. A spokesperson for the huge defense contractor declined to comment on Zuma after Sunday night's launch.

SpaceX has pushed back an historic test of the Falcon Heavy, the world's largest rocket.

Under mounting pressure from SpaceX, ULA's CEO Tory Bruno vowed to "literally transform" the company to compete - and he also continued to champion ULA's track record of successful launches of more than 100 in a row. SpaceX didn't have a failure, Northrop Grumman did. Currently, SpaceX is facing fierce competition from ULA, a launch provider operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which have long relationships with various elements of the US government.

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

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.

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