The Zuma mission satellite is not lost or missing in action according to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or SpaceX. The company defended the performance of the Falcon 9 in response to media reports that the mission was a failure and that the spy satellite it launched fell into the ocean.
The satellite launch initiated by SpaceX on January 7 was the company's third classified mission for the United States government. After several delays, the Zuma took off from the Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida last Sunday.
The two-hour primary launch was livestreamed on the internet. As usual with classified government payload missions, the launch's livestream was cut off before the separation of the nose cone and the deployment of the satellite.
Amid speculations of a failed mission, SpaceX announced that the Falcon 9 performed properly but did not announce a successful launch nor made further comments whether the payload has reached its destination.
What Really Happened After The Launch?
After the Sunday launch, there have been uncertainties surrounding Zuma, further fueling speculations that the mission either had a problem or failed and the spacecraft has been lost in space.
Media reports cited anonymous U.S. government officials familiar with the launch confirming that the Zuma mission failed. The second stage booster section of the Falcon 9 reportedly failed and the satellite and the rocket's second stage plummeted into the Indian Ocean after it was launched into orbit.
However, SpaceX issued a statement clarifying what had transpired during the launch.
"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. 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," says SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
In May 2017, SpaceX managed to recover the first stage of a rocket that it used to launch a classified U.S. reconnaissance satellite.
All Scheduled Launches To Proceed
While experts believe that a setback of the Zuma mission could be a real threat to the future of Elon Musk's space technology business, SpaceX said its future launches would go on as scheduled, including the much-anticipated launch and maiden flight of Falcon Heavy.
"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," added Shotwell.
Strange Sky Spiral Images Believed To Be The Missing Zuma
Meanwhile, the internet is speculating that the photo of an ethereal spiral in the night sky taken by Dutch pilot Peter Horstink might be the missing upper part of the Falcon 9 rocket.
Horstink captured the image of what appears to be a greenish and blue spiral from his aircraft as he flew 35,000 feet above the Earth's surface over Khartoum City in Sudan. The photo was shared on Twitter by satellite tracker Marco Langbroek.
The maker of the billion-dollar Zuma spy satellite, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, refused to comment on the plight of its missing satellite.