SpaceX-launched satellite isn't seen in orbit, Pentagon says

The launch was thought to have gone well until reports began to circle around the next day, from Ars Technica, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, that something went awry and that the classified satellite, named Zuma, was either missing or lost.

SpaceX's review so far indicates that 'no design, operational or other changes are needed, ' Shotwell said.

"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. "We can not comment on classified missions", Tim Paynter, Vice President for the company, said earlier.

The spacecraft, called Zuma, launched at 8 p.m. Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately".

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp, which was commissioned by the Defense Department to choose the launch contractor, declined to comment on the payload adapter, saying "we can not comment on classified missions".

The end goal for the Hawthorne, California-based company will be to prove the utility of the rocket that can lift more than twice the payload of competitor United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.

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.

SpaceX - which was founded and led by Musk, who also heads the electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc - is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month.

The nature of the mission remains shrouded in mystery.

Jonathan McDowell of Jonathan's Space Report, which provides detailed information about space launches, tweeted yesterday that the Air Force assigned a tracking number (43098) and name (USA 280) to the object, suggesting that it made at least one orbit, but leaving open the question of whether the satellite and second stage separated or not. "We can not comment on classified missions".

In a statement, the Department of Defense said, "As a matter of policy we do not comment on classified missions".

"It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket", founder Elon Musk said at the time of the launch.

A USA official and two congressional aides, all familiar with the launch, said on condition of anonymity that the second-stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster rocket failed. "National security payloads are a very important potential market for SpaceX". However, rumors are now swirling that SpaceX actually failed the Zuma mission, especially after there was no confirmation that it was a success. Additionally, a SpaceX rocket carrying supply missions to the International Space Station for NASA exploded in 2015.

"This is a classified program", Northrop Grumman Communications Director Lon Rains told HuffPost in an emailed statement.

Zuma was SpaceX's third military launch.

  • Essie Rivera