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SpaceX to launch world's most powerful rocket by 'end of January'

08 January 2018, 04:24 | Ross Houston

SpaceX to launch world's most powerful rocket by 'end of January'

SpaceX to launch world's most powerful rocket by 'end of January'

The launch window opens at 8 p.m.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Kennedy Space Center this evening, carrying a secretive US government payload known as "Zuma" to low-Earth orbit.

To date, SpaceX has launched 49 rockets, of which 44 have been successful.

SpaceX and the Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment about the nature of the mission.

The launch was initially supposed to take place in November but was postponed so the California-based company could take a closer look at potential problems with the fairing, or the nose cone part of the rocket that protects the payload.

Contracted by Northrop Grumman for an unspecified US agency, the mission was known to be headed into a low Earth orbit, roughly 250 miles up, on a northeasterly trajectory angled about 50 degrees relative to the equator.

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Sunday's launch will also include a landing attempt of the Falcon 9's first stage at Landing Zone 1. While this would not be the first time for SpaceX to launch a mission to space, with some also being confidential, this is the first time that even its client is unknown.

Falcon 9 rocket stage lands back at Cape Canaveral.

Northrop Grumman did reveal that Zuma is going to LEO, but that information doesn't tell us much; this range of altitudes houses a variety of spacecraft, from reconnaissance, weather and communications satellites to the International Space Station.

CEO Elon Musk says the heavy-lift launcher's debut test flight - carrying his own Tesla Roadster sports auto into space - is possible from KSC before the end of this month.

The 45th Space Wing on Tuesday is scheduled to deliver its year-ahead forecast of local launch activity to the National Space Club Florida Committee.



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