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SpaceX president confirms successful launch of government spy satellite Zuma

12 January 2018, 12:40 | Ross Houston

SpaceX president confirms successful launch of government spy satellite Zuma

SpaceX president confirms successful launch of government spy satellite Zuma

However, the positive presence of the satellite in the orbit can not be confirmed.

Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, said Falcon 9 "did everything correctly" in a statement on Tuesday, but added that no further details could be provided because the mission was classified.

SpaceX denied providing any comment related to the mission as it contained confidential information.

Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.

On the heels of the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9/GovSat 1 missions later this month, SpaceX plans at least two launches in February for two Spanish customers.

Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches.

A day later, there was no confirmation the mission had been a success and the satellite had not been recorded in orbit by US Strategic Command, which tracks tens of thousands of man-made objects in space.

The launch window January 30 opens at 4:23 p.m. EST (2123 GMT) and extends for 134 minutes.

According to ArsTechnica, the company has stated that the rocket performed nominally in both the first and second stages during the launch.

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What makes things tricky is the fact that the satellite failed to achieve orbit, reportedly burning up in the earth's atmosphere.

Brian Mahlstedt, an automation software engineer at SpaceX, told live-stream viewers: "We're not going to show video coverage of it, but we will confirm that the fairings have separated, meaning that Zuma and second stage are the only vehicles continuing on to their final orbit".

If something went wrong - "a big "if" - I am skeptical", he wrote in a blog post - it could be that the spacecraft ended up in the wrong orbit, that it did not work after separating from the rocket, or that it failed to separate from the Falcon 9's upper stage at all. Another Falcon 9, meanwhile, is scheduled to fly in three weeks with a communication satellite for Luxembourg.

White again referred reporters to SpaceX.

According to Shotwell, "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".

Originally planned to launch back in November, Zuma had a secret payload for the USA government. Northrop Grumman Corp, which supplied the payload and its adapter, has also refused to comment.

Big questions remain unanswered as officials remained tight-lipped about a billion-dollar satellite that could be somewhere in orbit - or crashed into the sea.

Already, rumors abound that Zuma was a satellite meant to monitor or intercept nuclear activities by North Korea and that the story about its failure is a matter of subterfuge. Various spokespeople in recent days - including during a press briefing Thursday at the Pentagon - have repeatedly declined to discuss the mission, citing the classified nature of the program.

SpaceX issued the statement in response to reports on Twitter and by some news outlets, not officially confirmed, that the secret satellite fell into the ocean after the Sunday blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.



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