SpaceX dealt blow as secret military satellite goes missing

Where the top secret spy satellite lands nobody knows. Zuma Mission by Spacex

On Sunday night SpaceX launched the Zuma satellite into space.

"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 added.

"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", said SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson in an e-mail.

"There's a long tradition of not commenting on problems with classified missions, unless it blows up in such a way that everyone can see it", said John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell issued a statement this morning reasserting the company's position that its Falcon 9 rocket was not at fault for whatever happened to the Zuma satellite. According to the New York Times, what happened remains unclear, but it's possible that Zuma - which was built by Northrop Grumman Corporation - never separated from the second stage.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Corp., which was commissioned by the Defense Department to choose the launch contractor, said "we can not comment on classified missions", and army lieutenant colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon's spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX. The sources would not confirm what exactly the payload was, saying it was classified.

The company's live webcast did not show video coverage of the Zuma spacecraft after it separated from the first stage of the rocket, but confirmed that the fairings deployed and the payload was on its way to low-Earth orbit.

As they battled with SpaceX, ULA's executives launched a "results over rhetoric" campaign, highlighting the company's long heritage in space. "We can not discuss classified programs".

But, according to the Journal, the satellite failed to reach orbit atop a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. rocket.

We spoke to a Northrup Grummam rep by phone, who said: "This is a classified mission".

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. In addition to the SatTrackCam Leiden analysis, the government did allow Shotwell to make that statement today, apparently not wanting the failure to weigh against SpaceX, but also intent on keeping Zuma's mission secret.

"This is a classified program", Northrop Grumman Communications Director Lon Rains told HuffPost in an emailed statement.

SpaceX had a spectacular launch this weekend, on January 7, which was capped by a near flawless landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. After a rigorous Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.

SpaceX, the closely held company founded and led by chief executive officer Elon Musk-who also heads the electric auto manufacturer Tesla Inc. -is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month.

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