Secret US spy satellite may be lost in space after SpaceX launch

The payload of the launch is assumed to be a national security satellite or spacecraft, though whatever it really is, we may now never find out.

The secretive nature of the Zuma payload makes reliable details about the mission hard to come by or verify. "We can not comment on classified missions". SpaceX is also under contract from NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, and it maintains that the first test flights with humans on board could happen as soon as this year. According to the LA Times a spokesperson for Grumman declined to provide an explanation and said, "This is a classified mission".

As word spread on Monday that something may have happened to the Zuma satellite, SpaceX maintained that nothing went wrong with its Falcon 9 rocket, saying a review of the data showed it "performed nominally".

The Journal, which received the same statement, said the language pointed to normal rocket operations, suggesting the cause of any issue came from elsewhere.

"For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.

"There's a long tradition of not commenting on problems with classified missions, unless it blows up in such a way that everyone can see it", John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Bloomberg News.

SpaceX's review so far indicates that 'no design, operational or other changes are needed, ' Shotwell said.

The massive Falcon Heavy, which has already been staged on a Cape Canaveral launchpad, stands 230 feet tall and consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores. According to one source, the payload fell back to Earth along with the spent upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months. However, rumors are now swirling that SpaceX actually failed the Zuma mission, especially after there was no confirmation that it was a success.

Late on Sunday night, SpaceX launched a satellite manufactured by Northrop Grumman out of Florida.

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

The CEO of SpaceX is Elon Musk, the South African-born inventor and entrepreneur who is also behind electric car-maker Tesla. The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 previous year.

The fairing is the part of the rocket nose cone that holds the payload and splits apart at the proper time, so the satellite can slip into orbit.

SpaceX competes for military launches with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp, which was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly.

  • Joe Gonzales