Lost in space? Secret SpaceX Zuma satellite a total loss

This still image from video courtesy of SpaceX shows the launch of SpaceX's secretive US government payload known as Zuma on January 7 from Cape Canaveral Florida

This still image from video courtesy of SpaceX shows the launch of SpaceX's secretive US government payload known as Zuma on January 7 from Cape Canaveral Florida

Little is known about the Zuma satellite - not even the name of the US government agency that owns it.

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying Zuma blasted off and appeared to shed "stage one", as planned.

SpaceX did not report any problems with the launch; however, while the company usually announces a successful launch regardless of the classification of the payload, no confirmation was given by SpaceX or Northrup Grumman, the company that manufactured the secret satellite. "For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", she said.

Shotwell pushed back on reports that seemed to implicate SpaceX with the satellite's demise, saying "information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false".

Shotwell went on to state that this latest mishap will have no bearing on future SpaceX launches, and that Falcon Heavy is being prepped for its maiden flight. However, SpaceX censored critical portions of the launch, including the separation of the nose cone surrounding the top-secret Zuma satellite, and the satellite's actual deployment into earth's orbit.

Falcon Heavy launches start at $90 million, compared to the starting price of $62 million for the smaller Falcon 9, according to SpaceX's website.

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The satellite was so highly secretive that it was not publicly released what government agency - National Reconnaissance Office? A spokesperson for the huge defense contractor declined to comment on Zuma after Sunday night's launch. SpaceX said in a statement "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

In the meantime, Falcon Heavy, like its smaller cousin the Falcon 9, will advance SpaceX's goal of cutting launch costs by reusing rockets.

"We have chose to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer", said SpaceX communications director John Taylor at the time. A spokesperson for National Reconnaissance Office, which owns the US government's spy satellite fleet, said Zuma did not belong to that organization.

The likely culprit for the failed launch of the payload can be an American Corporation Northrop Grumman.

On the other hand, ArsTechnica notes that the fairing for Zuma was also supplied by Northrop Grumman.

A Falcon 9 rocket is set to lift off in February from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the Spanish-owned Paz radar imaging satellite, and another Falcon 9 is slated to haul the Hispasat 30W-6 geostationary communications craft to orbit from Cape Canaveral some time in February.

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