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Lost in space? Secret SpaceX Zuma satellite a total loss

13 January 2018

As critics were quick to call SpaceX's reliability into question, the company rolled its new powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, onto the same launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center that hoisted the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

The test fire was also delayed Thursday.

By that point, SpaceX had been flying its Falcon 9 rocket successfully, and the Air Force settled the case with SpaceX, eventually granting it the certification required for it to compete.

Phil Larsen, who previously worked in the press service of SpaceX, as well as in 2009-2014 held the post of senior adviser for space and innovation in the administration of the 44th President Barack Obama, remarked that the publication of The Wall Street Journal "does not contain a key fact", according to which the adapter payload (it separates the payload from the rocket) for Zuma made Northrop Grumman.

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

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The attack, particularly targeted Northrop Grumman, the builders of the satellite who have remained low and did not give any explanation about the incident while SpaceX is taking all the heat.

Congressional inquiries into the satellite failure may revive debate about SpaceX's rivalry for military contracts with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. The spokesman for the corporation said that the company isn't at liberty to comment on a classified mission.

In 2015, SpaceX was certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch national security satellites.

Falcon Heavy launches start at $90 million, compared to the starting price of $62 million for the smaller Falcon 9, according to SpaceX's website.

A launch date for the maiden Falcon Heavy test flight has not been officially scheduled, but it could occur by the end of January.

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A rocket operated by the aerospace company SpaceX exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral where it was being test-fired ahead of a launch.

"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", she said. SpaceX said it would not comment beyond its statement.

The GovSat 1 satellite is set to launch on the next Falcon 9 rocket mission. U.S. Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, said in a statement that while he couldn't comment on classified matters, "space is a risky business".

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell notes that "usually, when you buy a missile launch, you pay for the adapter payload on the upper stage of the rocket, therefore the spacecraft separation from the rocket could be a problem, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX is not". The flight seemed to go off without a hitch, although we weren't given full access to video throughout the entirety of the flight or detailed telemetry data considering that this was a classified mission for the U.S. Military.

In the meantime, Falcon Heavy, like its smaller cousin the Falcon 9, will advance SpaceX's goal of cutting launch costs by reusing rockets.

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Lost in space? Secret SpaceX Zuma satellite a total loss