Top Secret Zuma Satellite May Have Failed After SpaceX Launch - Space UpClose On Fox 35 News Orlando
Ken Kremer -- Space UpClose -- 14 Jan 2018KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The top secret Zuma satellite may have failed and been completely destroyed by crashing into the ocean after possibly failing to achieve orbit following its launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Sunday night, Jan. 7 - according to press reports in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and elsewhere.
The fate of Zuma is unknown and the US government will not make any comment aboutit because this is a classified mission. Rather the Pentagon referred all questions to SpaceX who firmly stated it’s not their fault if something went seriously awry.
The blame game continues.
Fox 35 News Orlando interviewed me for some comments about Zuma and the upcoming debut launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy – soon to be the world’s most powerful rocket.
Watch this Fox 35 TV News story by Fox 35 News reporter Derrol Nail:
SpaceX issued a strongly worded statement on Monday, Jan. 8 from company President Gwynne Shotwell, denying any responsibility for the potential loss of Zuma and stating their Falcon 9 performed perfectly.
“Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night,” Shotwell stated.
“Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.”
The launch contract with SpaceX was arranged by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman.
Although the cost and goals of Zuma are unknown and classified, the cost is quite likely to be in the range of hundreds of millions dollars to a billion dollars or more.
Fox News reported Nail asked me who should take responsibility for this costly tax payer funded mission?
“I wish somebody would come forward and clarify this situation for the American people.The American taxpayers paid for this. Our defense depends on these [clandestine spy and surveillance] satellites.” They help assure US national defense.
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 carrying covert Zuma took place Sunday evening Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) from SpaceX’s newly reactivated seaside Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. See our photos.
The liftoff appeared to go off without a hitch and put on a spectacular sky show as witnessed and reported here by Space UpClose.
Nail asked me to review my Zuma launch photos and determine if I saw anything alarming in my own photos?
“I was a little concerned when I saw it. But I didn’t see anything that really looked horrible. But it did look really strange and I wondered for a moment [because of the wondrous and unique sky show put on by the engine flames illuminating the scattered clouds].”
Overall the launch and stage separation went quite well - as far as I could tell and personally witnessed.
Ultimately, I found nothing odd or exceptionally wrong and nothing that would indicate a Falcon 9 rocket failure from my vantage point on the Kennedy Space Center over the first few minutes of flight visible to us.
Further strong evidence that SpaceX is confident in the reliability of their rockets - in my opinion - is that they rolled out the maiden Falcon Heavy rocket to launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to conduct a static test fire of all 27 first stage engines while its held down at the pad - as soon as this week.
SpaceX really can’t afford a launch failure that would jeopardize their entire upcoming launch manifest entailing dozens of satellites lucratively valued in the billions of dollars.
Here’s the online story text by Fox 35 reporter Derrol Nail:
“Amidst reports of the failure of classified satellite to reach orbit, the president of the company that launched it is saying the company did everything correctly.”“On Monday [Jan. 8], the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News both cited anonymous sources in Congress as saying the "Zuma" mission, a top secret spy satellite estimated at a billion dollars, was lost Sunday night after the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket and the second stage, which carries the satellite, separated. Fox 35 captured video of colorful halos forming around the booster and the second stage as they separated.”
“But Gwynne Shotwell, president of Space Explorations Technologies, or SpaceX as its known, issued a statement saying any suggestion the aerospace company was responsible for losing the expensive spy satellite is "categorically false".”
“Ken Kremer, founder ofSpaceUpClose.com, says there needs to be accountability for the presumably lost billion dollar satellite. Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the satellite, released a statement that it would not comment on a classified mission.”
Watch for our Zuma follow-up stories.
Zuma’s launch was the first of what could ultimately be as many as 30 mission launchesfor SpaceX in 2018 utilizing both their East and West Coast launchpads according to statements made recently by the company’s top management; CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of SpaceX Zuma, Falcon Heavy, ULA and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.