SpaceX Insists Falcon 9 Performed Nominally for Zuma Launch

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 seemed to lift off successfully from the pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday carrying a classified payload in a mission code-named Zuma.

But Shotwell reiterated in a statement Tuesday morning that "after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

Northrop Grumman, the company that built the Zuma payload, told Business Insider in November that the United States government tasked it with picking a launch company, and it chose SpaceX.

This was SpaceX' s third classified mission for the US government, a lucrative customer.

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"If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", Shotwell added. One of the aides told Bloomberg that both the satellite and the rocket's second stage fell into the ocean.

But the Journal quotes unidentified government officials who were briefed on the mission as saying the satellite apparently did not separate from the second stage, and plunged back into the atmosphere and burned up. "We can not comment on a classified mission", he said.

"This is a classified program", Northrop Grumman Communications Director Lon Rains told HuffPost in an emailed statement. The government agency that ordered the spacecraft has not been disclosed.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter that SpaceX did not supply the payload adaptor, which shoots the satellite off the rocket, for this mission.

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As it usually does for classified launches, Loren Grush reports forThe Verge, SpaceX censored coverage of the launch, cutting its livestream prior to nose cone separation that would reveal the payload.

The Falcon 9 Zuma mission finally took off, but interestingly, SpaceX's live webcast of the launch was cut off right before the rocket deployed the Zuma payload into orbit.

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.

"They're concerned any failure might hinder their ability to get future national security launch contracts", said Brian Weeden, the director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, a space-policy think tank.

"The most important issue here is whether the Pentagon will rethink its reliability as a provider of launch services", said Thompson, whose think tank receives funding from Boeing and Lockheed.

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.

"It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket", founder Elon Musk said at the time of the launch.

"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", Shotwell said in the statement.

This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.

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