SpaceX Falcon Heavy lined up for first launch from Kennedy Space Center

Nettie James
January 11, 2018

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 flawless Falcon 9 launch and landing of the first stage. "It falls more on Northrup", Jim Cantrell, an early SpaceX employee who is now the CEO of Vector, a micro satellite launch startup, told NBC News.

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

"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", James Gleeson, a spokesman for SpaceX, said in an email. Northrop Grumman VP of Strategic Communications Tim Paynter, meanwhile, said that he could not comment on classified missions.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell issued a statement this morning reasserting the company's position that its Falcon 9 rocket was not at fault for whatever happened to the Zuma satellite. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. If SpaceX is sure about the success of its rocket launch, then the question will arise against the Northrop Grumman Corporation that built the billion-dollar Zuma satellite. SpaceX declined to comment further, citing the mission's classified status, as did Northrup Grumman Corp., which hired SpaceX as the launch contractor. Commentary during a webcast of the launch appeared to confirm that the fairings housing the payload were successfully deployed.

The Falcon 9 launch, which was tasked to send the Zuma payload into low-Earth orbit, was again recently delayed due to issues with the rocket's nose. Government and industry officials have said that the payload failed to separate from the second stage of the rocket and plunged back into the atmosphere.

The secretive nature of the Zuma payload makes reliable details about the mission hard to come by or verify.

Elon Musk tweeted that when it does lift off, the company plans to land all three first stages back on Earth, with two cores returning to land and a third to a droneship out in the Atlantic. 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.

The launch is SpaceX's first in what was expected to be a busy year.

SpaceX is led by Elon Musk and has been rapidly expanding its launch business, which includes NASA, national security and commercial missions.

While the landing was nearly ideal, the company did not go on to confirm that the mission was a success, at least officially, according to Ars Technica. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 previous year.

It has been competing with other private companies to launch more military payloads.

SpaceX said the Zuma mission's apparent failure wouldn't affect the company's upcoming launches, including a much-anticipated inaugural demonstration flight of the massive new Falcon Heavy rocket later this month.

Other reports by Insurance News

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