SpaceX secret Zuma satellite lost in space?

The launch of Zuma from Florida last Sunday

"Normally when you buy a rocket launch, you've paid for 'the payload adapter on the rocket final stage (which) pops the satellite off at the end'".

Loren Grush, a reporter at The Verge and SpaceX expert, does a good job of untangling the threads in an article posted early today (Jan. 9).

Mr McDowell said it was not plausible that the loss of Zuma is a fabrication to conceal its successful insertion in a secret orbit. This could also be a tricky way of saying the Falcon 9 booster itself worked well, but maybe something went wrong mechanically with the second stage.

"This is JUST NOT PLAUSIBLE for many reasons". If there was some kind of separation problem, the fault may not lie with SpaceX, but rather Northrop Grumman. Its makers, Northrop Grumman, declined to comment. It was so shrouded in secrecy that the sponsoring government agency was not even identified, as is usually the case.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp said: "We cannot comment on classified missions".

Likewise, SpaceX initially had no comment.

Shotwell said the company's defense of the Falcon 9 was based on "review of all data to date", and it would report any new information changing that assessment.

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.

To be fair, part of the glory days of NASA was a result of the Cold War, the space race with the Soviet Union.

A look at Sunday night's SpaceX launch in Florida. The Falcon Heavy is perhaps the most important rocket ever created by SpaceX, as it is the one planned to be used for missions to the moon and Mars.

As a two-stage rocket, the Falcon 9 first stage separated from the second stage exactly two minutes and 19 seconds into its flight.

The launch of the Falcon 9 for the classified Zuma mission, which was repeatedly delayed from its initial target date in November last year, kicked off SpaceX's 2018.

Other images of what appears to be the Falcon 9 upper stage after achieving orbit have surfaced online. One of the aides told Bloomberg that both the satellite and the rocket's second stage fell into the ocean. The first stage then began to aim for a spot at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX issued a statement Tuesday suggesting that its rocket performed as designed. The paper notes, however, a "lack of details about what occurred means that some possible alternate sequence of events ... may have been the culprit". And it plans to carry its first astronauts into space in its Dragon space capsule later this year.

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