SpaceX dealt blow as secret military satellite goes missing

SpaceX dealt blow as secret military satellite goes missing

The Falcon's first stage completed its job, lifting the rocket off the pad and toward space, then separated and landed back at Cape Canaveral.

According to Shotwell, data already reviewed has showed that "no design, operational or other changes are needed" that would impact further launches.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

Asked to comment, SpaceX - which is based in Hawthorne and whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - issued a statement Monday afternoon: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

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. Northrup Grumman, the aerospace contractor that hired SpaceX to sling its "Zuma" satellite into orbit, says it's "classified". Commentary during a webcast of the launch appeared to confirm that the fairings housing the payload were successfully deployed.

It was not immediately clear if the failure of this mission was due to problems with the SpaceX rocket, or with the Zuma spacecraft. But as of now, Northrop Grumman has denied to make any comment regarding the Zuma mission and its fate.

The mission itself was shrouded in secrecy even before it failed to enter a stable orbit. Anthony Capaccio and Dana Hull reporting for Bloomberg cite a U.S. official and two congressional aides reporting the launch failed, with one aide stating that the satellite and second-stage rocket fell back into the ocean. According to the LA Times a spokesperson for Grumman declined to provide an explanation and said, "This is a classified mission". Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter.

The massive Falcon Heavy, which has already been staged on a Cape Canaveral launchpad, stands 230 feet tall and consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores.

We'll update this story as new details emerge about the Zuma mission and its alleged failure.

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 launch broadcast was cut off shortly after the rocket's nose cone separated, which is standard under secret national security missions. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 a year ago.

SpaceX is scheduled to test the engines and startup procedures of its Falcon Heavy - the most powerful rocket since the Apollo program's Saturn V - on Wednesday, a key step before its maiden flight later this month.

SpaceX competes for military launches with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp, which was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly.

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