Zuma spacecraft launched by SpaceX is lost after failing to enter stable orbit

A secret spacecraft launched by a SpaceX rocket on Sunday failed to enter a stable orbit and was lost.The spac...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 7:53 AM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 7:53 AM

A secret spacecraft launched by a SpaceX rocket on Sunday failed to enter a stable orbit and was lost.

The spacecraft, called Zuma, launched at 8 p.m. Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

But the spacecraft apparently did not separate as it was supposed to from the upper stage of the rocket and did not reach a stable orbit, according to a U.S. administration official and two sources who were briefed on the matter. The sources would not confirm what exactly the payload was, saying it was classified.

The mission itself was shrouded in secrecy even before it failed to enter a stable orbit. The government agency that ordered the spacecraft has not been disclosed.

Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft, would only say: "This is a classified program. We cannot comment on classified programs." SpaceX has also declined to give details about the spacecraft.

In a statement, the Department of Defense said, "As a matter of policy we do not comment on classified missions."

It was not immediately clear if the failure of this mission was due to problems with the SpaceX rocket, or with the Zuma spacecraft. SpaceX issued a statement Tuesday suggesting that its rocket performed as designed.

"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night," said the statement from Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. "If we or others find otherwise 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."

Related: Your guide to commercial space travel in 2018

"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 added. "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."

Falcon Heavy is SpaceX's massive new rocket that will boast three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

The fact that SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy launch will move forward as scheduled also indicates there were no issues with the rocket. When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months.

Because of Zuma's secrecy, SpaceX didn't live stream the entire mission as it typically does. But it did show both the launch and the landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket back at Cape Canaveral.

This is not the first time a payload was lost on a SpaceX mission. On September 1, 2016 a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded while preparing to test fire its engines, destroying the Amos 6 communications satellite atop the rocket that was to be used by Facebook. Additionally, a SpaceX rocket carrying supply missions to the International Space Station for NASA exploded in 2015. However, the company has completed more than ten successful supply missions to ISS.

The loss of a government payload comes at a bad time for SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, who is CEO of both the privately-held rocket company and electric car maker Tesla.

It has been competing with other private companies to launch more military payloads. And it plans to carry its first astronauts into space in its Dragon space capsule later this year. Since the last Space Shuttle flight in 2011, NASA has relied upon the Russian space agency to carry U.S. astronauts to the ISS.

Correction: The head and first sentence of this article have been updated to reflect that the Zuma spacecraft failed to enter a stable orbit.

Lafayette
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 57°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 54°
Rensselaer
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 50°
Lafayette
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 57°
Danville
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 54°
Frankfort
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 55°
Frankfort
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 55°
Monticello
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Monticello
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Logansport
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 52°
Some More Frost & Light Freezing Ahead......
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 704632

Reported Deaths: 13211
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion961411718
Lake51322943
Allen39040670
Hamilton34368405
St. Joseph33865539
Elkhart27197431
Vanderburgh22050394
Tippecanoe21725212
Johnson17475374
Porter17240298
Hendricks16754310
Clark12663190
Madison12321337
Vigo12172244
Monroe11417166
LaPorte10841204
Delaware10325184
Howard9629211
Kosciusko9098113
Hancock7954139
Bartholomew7867155
Warrick7680155
Floyd7543176
Wayne6887198
Grant6773171
Boone6524100
Morgan6379138
Dubois6074117
Marshall5770108
Dearborn568576
Cass5678102
Henry5569100
Noble539383
Jackson492869
Shelby478295
Lawrence4336118
Gibson427789
Harrison427570
Clinton417753
Montgomery417286
DeKalb407984
Huntington377480
Whitley376339
Miami371765
Knox365789
Steuben363357
Putnam352360
Jasper347546
Wabash347377
Adams337852
Ripley333468
Jefferson312180
White307854
Daviess289399
Wells285581
Decatur278592
Fayette277162
Greene270485
Posey268433
Scott260853
Clay253044
LaGrange252170
Randolph234680
Washington230631
Spencer227531
Jennings224747
Fountain208245
Sullivan207542
Starke202652
Owen191956
Fulton190939
Jay185829
Carroll185620
Perry179736
Orange176753
Rush170624
Vermillion165943
Franklin165635
Tipton160943
Parke144316
Blackford133331
Pike130234
Pulaski113245
Newton103034
Brown99740
Crawford97514
Benton96413
Martin82515
Warren79315
Switzerland7698
Union69710
Ohio55711
Unassigned0408

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events