SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of United States spy satellite
Jan 11, 2018, 00:23
Posted late Monday night in its official Twitter feed, a SpaceX picture showed the Falcon 9 launch and its first-stage landing.
- SpaceX defended its rocket performance during the weekend launch of a secret USA satellite, responding Tuesday to media reports that the satellite codenamed Zuma was lost.
SpaceX on Tuesday defended the performance of one of its rockets used to launch a U.S. spy satellite that is believed to have been lost after failing to reach orbit, adding that no changes were anticipated to its upcoming launch schedule.
"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.
"There's a long tradition of not commenting on problems with classified missions, unless it blows up in such a way that everyone can see it", John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Bloomberg News.
SpaceX's 23-minute webcast of the Zuma launch Sunday evening included the Falcon 9 launch, confirmation that the fairings deployed, and the rocket's first-stage recovery on land in Florida. "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in an emailed statement.
If the Falcon Heavy's maiden flight is successful, it will launch an Arabsat satellite built by Lockheed sometime early this year and will be used in the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program-2 mission, which is comprised of military and scientific research satellites, as early as April.
Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft, would only say: "This is a classified program".
On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years.
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. "We can not comment on classified programs".
Whether the Falcon 9 Zuma mission failed or not, SpaceX is now setting its sights on the Falcon Heavy debut 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. According to the LA Times a spokesperson for Grumman declined to provide an explanation and said, "This is a classified mission".
"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".
As they battled with SpaceX, ULA's executives launched a "results over rhetoric" campaign, highlighting the company's long heritage in space.
SpaceX launched two other national security missions a year ago: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane, known as the X-37B, in September.
While the landing was nearly flawless, the company did not go on to confirm that the mission was a success, at least officially, according to Ars Technica.
SpaceX is led by Elon Musk and has been rapidly expanding its launch business, which includes NASA, national security and commercial missions.
SpaceX's statement muddied assertions of a failure in the second stage of the Falcon 9, as a United States official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch had said. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 past year.
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