Classified satellite fell into ocean after SpaceX launch, official confirms


Conflicting reports are surfacing after SpaceX's seemingly successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket with a secret government payload, code-named Zuma.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately.

SpaceX declined to comment further, citing the mission's classified status, as did Northrup Grumman, which manufactured the Zuma satellite and hired SpaceX as the launch contractor.

A veil of secrecy has been drawn over the fate of a multibillion-dollar USA spy satellite that is said to have failed despite the successful launch and return of the rocket that took it into space.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter that SpaceX did not supply the payload adapter, which shoots the satellite off the rocket, for this mission. SpaceX founder Elon Musk even tweeted about it, dropping a super-sweet photo of the launch.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the classified Zuma payload, January 7, 2018.

Yet SpaceX seems confident that it played its part in the Zuma mission well, and the company does not foresee this mission disrupting its schedule. The Falcon 9 won US Air Force certification for national-security space missions in May 2015, breaking a lock long-held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

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Last March, a Falcon 9 was relaunched into space-the first time an orbital rocket was reused.

"There will be at least three investigations. A billion dollars is not out of the ball park". Such venting procedures are typical after launches, done to avoid explosions after spacecraft separation, Langbroek wrote on his satellite-tracking website.

SpaceX, on the other hand, had something very different to say.

For almost a decade, ULA had a monopoly on Pentagon launches. Under mounting pressure from SpaceX, he was sacked, and ULA's new CEO, Tory Bruno, vowed to "literally transform" the company in order to compete with Musk - and he also continued to champion ULA's track record of successful launches.

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 vehicle maker Tesla.

In both cases, the company was grounded while it investigated the cause of those problems.