"As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma", Lon Rains, a Northrop Grumman spokesman, said of its decision to launch the mission using Elon Musk's SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp., per Bloomberg. SpaceX has confirmed that its rocket, and the undisclosed national security payload, are ready for launch, and weather conditions appear to be generally favorable. A Falcon 9 was used to launch one of Boeing's X-37B space planes this past September on behalf of the U.S. Air Force. There are two of these drone-ships remaining uncrewed and named as 'Of Course I Still Love You' and 'Just Read the Instructions'.
It is believed the Zuma burned up in the atmosphere.
Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches. Follow along live on Instagram to get a behind-the-scenes view of SpaceX's first launch of 2018. The satellite could have cost billions of dollars. The two-hour launch window opens at 8pm ET.
SpaceX spokesperson James Gleeson said: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally". Only that amateur satellites trackers will have next weeks busy working on the mystery is our next hope to receive further details. The stresses on the airframe from air friction and pressure could be too much for the beefy spacecraft to handle. The spokesman declined to elaborate. It's unknown what the satellite will do, or even which government agency is charged with operating it.
This was SpaceX's first launch of 2018.
A SpaceX rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral. "It will be launched into low Earth Orbit". But SpaceX did provide coverage of the early moments of the flight, including the successful return to Earth of the Falcon 9's first stage about eight minutes after liftoff. During max Q, the rocket's own speed, in a manner of speaking, conspires with the pressure outside to place the Falcon 9 under the greatest amount of stress that it encounters during its path "uphill".
SpaceX mission commentary covered the initial minutes of the launch, ignition of the rocket's second stage, jettison of a protective payload fairing and landing of the first stage back at the Air Force station. This was followed an estimated minute and 42 seconds later by another flawless landing at LZ-1.
Northrop Grumman made the Zuma satellite for the US government but has not elaborated about the device's capabilities or its demise.