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SpaceX reportedly lost its mysterious Zuma payload

From Engadget - January 8, 2018

Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell noted that space situational awareness service Space-Track catalogued Zuma. Space-Track adding something to its catalog means that object made it to orbit. However, Navy Captain Brook DeWalt told Bloomberg that the military division has "nothing to add to the satellite catalog at this time." It's all conflicting reports all around, and unfortunately, both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman, which built the satellite, refuse to talk. "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally," the space corporation told Engadget.

If the payload truly crashed or disappeared, then this incident came at a bad time for SpaceX. The company is hoping to start ferrying astronauts to the ISS this year and to win more contracts from the Pentagon. Although what happened to Zuma remains shrouded in mystery, McDowell said Northrop Grumman provided its own adapter used to attach the payload to the rocket's final stage. If the adapter was the one that failed to pop off when it was time for Zuma to detach itself, then the incident might not be SpaceX's fault at all.

To recap: Normally when you buy a rocket launch, you have paid for "the payload adapter on the rocket final stage pops the satellite off at the end". But on this mission the customer provided its own payload adapter, so separation may be its problem and not SpaceX's problem

Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) January 9, 2018
Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) January 9, 2018
Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) January 9, 2018

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