Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – SpaceX is trying to fend off speculation it placed the top secret military “Zuma” satellite into the wrong orbit causing the total loss of the multi-billion dollar spy satellite.
U.S. military officials confirmed the total loss of the satellite launched aboard a Falcon 9 on Jan. 6, and whose exact mission was never revealed. Rumors, however, persist the launch vehicle didn’t put Zuma into the correct orbit. It’s also possible there were other causes for the failure.
“We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally,” said SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson.
SpaceX president Gwynn Shotwell, however, defended SpaceX’s reputation as an aerospace company whose rockets are reliable.
“After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night,” said Shotwell.
“If we or others find based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible.”
She noted that 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. 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.”
The Zuma mission was the first for SpaceX this year and its first mission for the U.S. military.
Zuma is a spacecraft identified only as a government payload managed by Northrop Grumman. The SpaceX Falcon-9 v1.2 launch was contracted via Northrop Grumman, which built the satellite.
The mission was originally targeted to launch on Nov. 15, but hardware issues with the fairing forced several delays.
NRO or the National Reconnaissance Office has denied Zuma belongs to it.
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