Secret US spy satellite may be lost in space after SpaceX launch

Secret US spy satellite may be lost in space after SpaceX launch

Secret US spy satellite may be lost in space after SpaceX launch

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.

SpaceX on Tuesday defended the performance of one of its rockets used to launch a U.S. spy satellite that is believed to have been lost after failing to reach orbit, adding that no changes were anticipated to its upcoming launch schedule.

A SpaceX representative told Business Insider, "We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally". Northrop Grumman VP of Strategic Communications Tim Paynter, meanwhile, said that he could not comment on classified missions.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell pushed back against reports that her company's Falcon 9 rocket may have malfunctioned during Sunday's launch of a classified spy satellite.

SpaceX's review so far indicates that "no design, operational or other changes are needed", Shotwell said.

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. Commentary during a webcast of the launch appeared to confirm that the fairings housing the payload were successfully deployed.

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According to a source, the satellite did not reach the designated altitude and instead, fell back down, along with the expended second stage of the SpaceX rocket.

This was SpaceX's third classified mission for the US government, AP reported.

Until government officials are willing to make a public statement about Zuma, its fate will remain a mystery.

In a statement, the Department of Defense said, "As a matter of policy we do not comment on classified missions". The company doesn't anticipate any impact on its upcoming launch schedule, including a Falcon 9 mission in three weeks. The California-based company aims to launch the Heavy by month's end, making its debut with chief executive Elon Musk's own personal Tesla Roadster on board. However, rumors are now swirling that SpaceX actually failed the Zuma mission, especially after there was no confirmation that it was a success.

As it usually does for classified launches, Loren Grush reports forThe Verge, SpaceX censored coverage of the launch, cutting its livestream prior to nose cone separation that would reveal the payload.

SpaceX launched two other national security missions a year ago: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane, known as the X-37B, in September. The company has said it plans to launch about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 previous year. The thrust its 27 engines can produce is equivalent to 18 Boeing ( BA ) 747s and makes it two times more powerful than any other rocket operating today, according to SpaceX.

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