The mysterious SpaceX Falcon 9 Zuma mission is said to be a failure, as its mysterious satellite is apparently nowhere to be found.
The launch of the Falcon 9 for the classified Zuma mission, which was repeatedly delayed from its initial target date in November last year, kicked off SpaceX's 2018.
The Secretive Falcon 9 Zuma Mission
The U.S. government commissioned SpaceX for the classified Zuma mission, but its details have been kept under wraps since last year. Defense company Northrop Grumman requested the launch in behalf of the government, further casting a veil of secrecy on the missions.
The Falcon 9 launch, which was tasked to send the Zuma payload into low-Earth orbit, was again recently delayed due to issues with the rocket's nose. The payload of the launch is assumed to be a national security satellite or spacecraft, though whatever it really is, we may now never find out.
Did SpaceX Fail The Mysterious Zuma Mission?
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 successfully landed the first stage of the Falcon 9, which is an important achievement so that it can be used in future launches to reduce the cost of sending rockets to space. However, rumors are now swirling that SpaceX actually failed the Zuma mission, especially after there was no confirmation that it was a success.
According to U.S. Strategic Command, the Zuma payload is nowhere to be found in space, with no new satellites tracked after the Falcon 9 launch.
A government official and two congressional aides, all of which are familiar with the matters of the Falcon 9 launch, anonymously said that the second stage of the rocket failed. The Zuma satellite, according to one of the sources, fell into the ocean.
The rumors were corroborated by the sources of Ars Technica, claiming that the mysterious Zuma spacecraft may not have survived the Falcon 9 launch. The satellite was said to have fallen back to Earth along with the second stage of the rocket.
"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 in an e-mail. Northrop Grumman VP of Strategic Communications Tim Paynter, meanwhile, said that he could not comment on classified missions.
Up Next: SpaceX Falcon Heavy Debut Launch
Whether the Falcon 9 Zuma mission failed or not, SpaceX is now setting its sights on the Falcon Heavy debut launch. The Falcon Heavy is perhaps the most important rocket ever created by SpaceX, as it is the one planned to be used for missions to the moon and Mars.
While the Falcon 9 had the Zuma satellite, the Falcon heavy will have an interesting payload of its own: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster.