Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of United States spy satellite

SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of United States spy satellite

Did something happen to Zuma after separating from the rocket's second stage? The company chose SpaceX as the launch provider, noting late previous year that it took "great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma".

It's possible that the Zuma satellite failed to separate properly, meaning the fault may not have been with the launch system, according to discussions on SpaceX's Twitter feed. In the static fire test, SpaceX engineers will ignite all 27 of the heavy-lift rocket's engines almost simultaneously for the first time, holding the rocket down on the launch pad while they do.

Zuma, the code-name of the clandestine payload - likely a next-generation spy or communications satellite - most likely broke apart and crashed into the ocean, according to the Wall Street Journal, NBC, and other outlets.

"A$3 fter review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

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.

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.

Zuma may have cost billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to design, build, and certify, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The launch broadcast was cut off shortly after the rocket's nose cone separated, which is standard under secret national security missions.

However, the key part connecting the Zuma payload to the rocket wasn't made by SpaceX.

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Ketcham says it's common for launch providers like SpaceX to supply adapters to custom fit payloads like satellites.

"It matters for future SpaceX customers who would want to know if SpaceX's payload adapters were unreliable", he replied in a follow-up tweet.

Reports have said that defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation-which built the satellite-chose Elon Musk's SpaceX as its launch vehicle. Defense company Northrop Grumman requested the launch in behalf of the government, further casting a veil of secrecy on the missions.

"This is a classified mission". But afterward, the US Strategic Command said it wasn't tracking any new satellites, an indication that the satellite somehow failed to deploy properly. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately.

"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", SpaceX added.

Falcon Heavy-a modified variant of the Falcon 9 and equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power-is due to be rolled out at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for static fire tests later this week.

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.

Ars will update this story as more information arrives.

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