Published: Thu, January 11, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

SpaceX Aims to Test Fire Falcon Heavy This Week

SpaceX Aims to Test Fire Falcon Heavy This Week

But the spacecraft apparently did not separate as it was supposed to from the upper stage of the rocket and did not reach a stable orbit, according to a US administration official and two sources who were briefed on the matter.

The multibillion-dollar satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX rocket on Sunday.

"I don't think we can know", Ketcham said. "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", Gwynne Shotwell, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement to Business Insider.

A military satellite launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hasn't been spotted in orbit by the US Strategic Command, creating a mystery about the fate of the classified payload and doubts about whether the mission was a success.

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According to Shotwell, data already reviewed has showed that "no design, operational or other changes are needed" that would impact further launches.

She said the Falcon Heavy is still scheduled to test the rocket with a static fire this week and that the company is also preparing for a Falcon 9 launch of a commercial communications satellite in three weeks. Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter.

By all indications, SpaceX pulled off the Sunday launch of the secret Zuma spacecraft with no hitches, sending the second stage well on its way to the Low Earth Orbit as the first reusable stage nailed a pretty good landing eight minutes later in Cape Canaveral. The satellite was lost, one of the congressional aides said, and the other said both the satellite and the second-stage satellite fell into the ocean after the failure.

But the unknown dominated this mission. The sources would not confirm what exactly the payload was, saying it was classified.

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So if this comment by SpaceX is true, that means its Falcon 9 did what it was supposed to do: that is, launch the rocket, perform the two-stage separation, and deploy the Zuma satellite into its intended orbit. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX.

The launch is SpaceX's first in what was expected to be a busy year. The takeoff had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week's extreme weather on the East Coast contributing to the latest delay.

"Normally when you buy a rocket launch, you've paid for "the payload adapter on the rocket final stage pops the satellite off at the end". What, if anything, happened to the top secret Zuma payload launched on a SpaceX rocket Sunday? The webcast then concluded.

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. That broke up a longtime and lucrative monopoly held by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. known as United Launch Alliance. After a rigorous Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.

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