SpaceX dealt blow as secret military satellite goes missing

Reuters

Reuters

The multibillion-dollar satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX rocket on Sunday. The satellite was destined for low-Earth orbit, Robin Seemangal wrote for Wired late past year, and unlike most launches, the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman, not SpaceX, supplied the payload adapter used to secure the satellite during launch and release it into orbit.

Company president Gwynne Shotwell said the rocket "did everything correctly" and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false", according to the Associated Press.

A highly classified United States spy satellite was reportedly lost in a failed SpaceX mission in Florida.

A highly classified and multibillion-dollar US spy satellite atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is presumed to have been destroyed, never reaching orbit on its Sunday launch, according to news reports.

Zuma was built by the defence contractor Northrop Grumman, though it is unknown which U.S. agency would have been using the satellite.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Corp., which was commissioned by the Defense Department to choose the launch contractor, said "we can not comment on classified missions", and army lieutenant colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon's spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX.

For years, the company has been in a heated battle with ULA over lucrative contracts to launch national security payloads, long seen by Musk as a key source of revenue.

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The satellite, code-named Zuma, failed to reach orbit and fell back into Earth's atmosphere after separating from the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

The CEO of SpaceX is Elon Musk, the South African-born inventor and entrepreneur who is also behind electric car-maker Tesla.

The mission itself was shrouded in secrecy even before it failed to enter a stable orbit.

As they battled with SpaceX, ULA's executives launched a "results over rhetoric" campaign, highlighting the company's long heritage in space. "This is a classified mission", a spokesperson told NBC News. Anthony Capaccio and Dana Hull reporting for Bloomberg cite a U.S. official and two congressional aides reporting the launch failed, with one aide stating that the satellite and second-stage rocket fell back into the ocean.

The launch was SpaceX's first in what is due to be a busy year. "We can not comment on a classified mission", he said. The company doesn't anticipate any impact on its upcoming launch schedule, including a Falcon 9 mission in three weeks. 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. 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.

As it usually does for classified launches, Loren Grush reports forThe Verge, SpaceX censored coverage of the launch, cutting its livestream prior to nose cone separation that would reveal the payload.

Zuma was SpaceX's third military launch.

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