Zuma lifted off from SpaceX's Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL on Sunday evening at 8:00 pm ET in what appeared to be a ideal Falcon 9 launch and landing of the first stage.
The launch comes as reports indicate that a highly classified satellite launched by SpaceX on Sunday has gone missing and may have suffered a failure once it reached space.
The mission itself was shrouded in secrecy even before it failed to enter a stable orbit. On Monday, Ars began to hear discussion from sources that the mysterious Zuma spacecraft-the objective of which was never specified, nor which USA military or spy agency had backed it-may not have survived.
A spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp., which built the satellite valued to be worth more than $1 billion, told the Journal: "This is a classified mission". But as of now, Northrop Grumman has denied to make any comment regarding the Zuma mission and its fate.
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SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, says its rocket performed correctly. "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement to Business Insider. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. "Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible", said Shotwell.
Shotwell said in her Tuesday statement that the company "does not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule" since the data reviewed so far "indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed". Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight. "We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks".
Ketcham says it's common for launch providers like SpaceX to supply adapters to custom fit payloads like satellites.
As they battled with SpaceX, ULA's executives launched a "results over rhetoric" campaign, highlighting the company's long heritage in space.
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Following what turned out to be an eventful Zuma launch on January 7, SpaceX is gearing up to perform a static fire test on Falcon Heavy as early as today, January 10.
This is not the first time a payload was lost on a SpaceX mission.
SpaceX's statement muddied assertions of a failure in the second stage of the Falcon 9, as a U.S. official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch had said. SpaceX, along with Boeing Co., also has a contract with Nasa to fly astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the "Commercial Crew" program, with the first crucial test flight slated for the second quarter.
The private rocket company typically broadcasts an entire satellite deployment via its livestream, but not for classified missions such as this one.
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The loss of a government payload comes at a bad time for SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, who is CEO of both the privately-held rocket company and electric vehicle maker Tesla. After an extensive Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.