After two months of mysterious delays, SpaceX has finally launched its Falcon 9 rocket to deliver the top-secret Zuma spacecraft into the low-Earth orbit.
Falcon 9 successfully took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with a two-hour primary launch window opening on Jan. 7 at 8:00 p.m. A backup two-hour launch is slated for tonight, Jan. 8 at 8:00 p.m.
Following separation of the rocket's two-stage configuration, its first stage will attempt to land at the aerospace company's Landing Zone 1, which is also located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Last night's launch is SpaceX's first of the year and its 20th first stage landing to date. Such landings are vital to the company as they are being performed to improve the development of its reusable rockets.
SpaceX Cuts Broadcast
Agencies and individuals involved in the Zuma mission continue to be silent about its details even after the payload has already been carried off to space. Since November 2017, all that is known about the mission is it involves a spacecraft supposedly commissioned by an agency under the U.S. government.
SpaceX's live webcast further fuels the mystery surrounding the payload when it intentionally cuts the coverage just when the Falcon 9 was about to deploy the Zuma spacecraft into the low-Earth orbit. Viewers are then redirected to the first stage's landing attempt. Those who missed catching the live broadcast can still view its replay at spacex.com/webcast.
While the press kit reveals nothing about the spacecraft, a report says that amateur satellite trackers believe it to be an experimental vessel built with new technologies. Their best guess is it features sensors that prevent the collision of two spacecraft.
Theory Links Classified Mission To National Reconnaissance Office
The same report cites a theory claiming the Zuma mission is connected to a previous one launched by SpaceX in May 2017 for the National Reconnaissance Office.
According to the theory, both the International Space Station and the NRO satellite were set to fly over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station around the time of the November 2017 launching. It believes Zuma is another of the agency's satellites and is therefore intended to be positioned near the two existing spacecraft.
However, the recent launch has disproved the theory as the orbital tracks of the three spacecraft were not aligned.
SpaceX To Launch Falcon Heavy Within The Year
Another highly anticipated SpaceX launch will feature the world's most powerful operational rocket named Falcon Heavy. It is described to have nearly the same mass as a packed 737 jetliner and the capacity to lift large payloads at a lower cost.
Like Falcon 9, the bigger rocket is designed with two stages. It will be powered by three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores with 27 Merlin engines that could generate over five million pounds of thrust during liftoff.