Mystery surrounds fate of secret satellite slung by SpaceX

Mystery surrounds fate of secret satellite slung by SpaceX

The Falcon 9 launcher returned to Earth successfully after the company's first mission for 2018.

The Wall Street Journal quotes unidentified congressional officials who were briefed on the mission as saying the satellite apparently did not separate from the second stage, and plunged through the atmosphere and burned up.

A senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Laura Grego, showed concern that the satellite might have stopped functioning near the orbit or failed to separate from the rocket during the second half of the mission.

An article in Wired said that Northrop Grumman provided the adapter to mate Zuma to the Falcon 9.

Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track.

The Associated Press adds: "SpaceX ended launch commentary five minutes into the flight, due to the classified nature of the USA satellite".

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For its part, SpaceX seems to be shifting the blame away from itself, and said in a statement, "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally". If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately".

Results from the firing will be analyzed ahead of Falcon Heavy's demonstration flight around the "end of the month", according to CEO Elon Musk. The satellite for the secret mission was built by Northrop Grumman Corp.

SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force.

The company has been preparing to launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket, which is made up of three Falcon 9 engine cores.

The company says that SpaceX is all set for the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy. "Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date".

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