Billion-dollar spy satellite destroyed in launch

1_3_Falcon 9 Dragon

A secretive U.S satellite that launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida aboard a rocket built by Elon Musk's SpaceX failed to reach orbit and is likely to be a total loss, according to sources quotes by various news outlets.

Asked to comment, Hawthorne-based SpaceX issued a statement Monday afternoon: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell says the Falcon 9 rocket "did everything correctly" and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false".

This launch marks the 21st successful mission for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, and it is the ninth occasion where it has landed at its Landing Zone 1 site at Cape Canaveral. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately". Northrop Grumman made the satellite, which it said was for the government and was destined for low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

Ground resources of the Strategic Command of the US Armed Forces, which track the movement of more than 23,000 man-made objects in space, failed to detect the satellite in orbit. Also, the company continued with preparations for future launches, including rolling the Falcon Heavy rocket back out to a different launch pad in Florida for additional tests. "I am confident other experts on the subject will agree with me", he added. In December SpaceX launched its first reused Falcon 9 rocket for NASA, successfully carrying supplies to the International Space Station.

Just call it Schrödinger's rocket launch.

The government agency responsible for launching the spacecraft hasn't claimed it, which is somewhat odd.

The rocket is designed to get heavy payloads into space and restores the possibility of flying manned missions to the moon or Mars. The information about the parameters of the orbit of the satellite and its purpose was classified. The initial reports cite a communications "blackout" with the satellite. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 last year.

The launch was initially planned for November but was postponed so that SpaceX could "take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer", SpaceX said on Twitter at the time.

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