After Zuma, SpaceX keeps pace in preps for next Falcon 9 launch

12 January, 2018, 12:39 | Author: Becky Perry
  • After Zuma, SpaceX keeps pace in preps for next Falcon 9 launch

SpaceX launched the mission, codenamed Zuma, on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with its Falcon 9 rocket, aiming to deliver the satellite into orbit on behalf of a U.S. defense contractor. However, the positive presence of the satellite in the orbit can not be confirmed. A day after White's statement, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, was asked about Zuma.

SpaceX and the Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment about the nature of the mission. And she noted that any reports that the rocket failed are "categorically false".

SpaceX launched two other national security missions past year: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane, known as the X-37B, in September.

She said work to ready SpaceX's next launches remained on schedule, with the first hold-down firing of the company's new Falcon Heavy rocket planned this week at Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A.

SpaceX cut off its launch broadcast after confirming that the rocket's nose cone - the cause of a delay to a planned November launch - had separated a few minutes after the 8 p.m. ET blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company has already signed contracts to launch commercial missions on the three-core rocket - if the test fire and demonstration flight are successful.

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. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who previous flew into space in the 1980s aboard Columbia as a payload specialist, sided with SpaceX, stating, "The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs".

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According to Shotwell, "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". It could majorly affect the future business prospects of the company SpaceX associated with the defense, explained the defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, Loren Thompson.

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

The GovSat 1 satellite is set to launch on the next Falcon 9 rocket mission.

According to Wired Magazine, Northrop Grumman supplied the adapter fitting connecting the Zuma payload with the Falcon 9 rocket. That will be followed by a January 18 night launch from the Cape of an Atlas V rocket and USA missile warning satellite.

If the separation system was to blame for Zuma's rumored demise, the malfunction could have been under the responsibility of Northrop Grumman, not SpaceX. "Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible".

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.

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