Zuma Successfully Launches After Several Month Delay.

Last night, January 7th, 2018, SpaceX successfully launched the Zuma payload into low Earth orbit after being delayed several months. SpaceX launched the highly classified payload from the newly remodeled SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Approximately 8 minutes after the launch, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage to landing zone 1 at the Air Force Station.

Official SpaceX Zuma Mission Patch
Official SpaceX Zuma Mission Patch. Credit: SpaceX

While no government agency, including the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), is claiming this satellite, there have been many rumors floating around. We heard one story, from an aerospace worker, who said it could be a weaponized satellite intended to strike enemies, such as North Korea, from space. While this would get the conspiracy theory party going, we think it was just a joke, as he had a smile on his face when he was telling us the story. However, as the tensions with North Korea grow, there is always a possibility this is not just a highly classified imaging satellite or a communications satellite.

View more images from the Zuma launch on our mission gallery page.

The only confirmation we have about this secretive payload is that Northrop Grumman built it and that the company was also hired to find the launch provider. There is no guarantee this spacecraft is even for a government agency, and it can just as easily be a private company that wants to keep its payload a secret from its competition. Countless ideas and theories are going around, and with a payload as secretive as this, we may never know what went up into low earth orbit last night.

At the time of writing this article, SpaceX has not confirmed a successful mission. The private space company so far has only confirmed the successful landing of the Falcon 9 first stage at landing zone 1. The live stream ended after the first stage landing. 

Other news outlets are reporting that it might be possible that the mission failed sometime after the first stage separation. These are only speculations, and even that news agency can’t confirm, at this time that the mission in fact failed. 

There were talks back in 2017 about how SpaceX might have damaged the spacecraft, causing the delay in launching the mission last year. If there was damage to the spacecraft, it could be one of the many causes of a possible failure in separation from second stage and payload. Nothing was ever confirmed about the potential damage to the spacecraft in 2017 causing the delay.

It was a beautiful launch from the Space Coast and the night was almost clear of all clouds. Scrolling through social media sites, we saw many fantastic photos of the launch. We saw some people post images as far as Daytona Beach and Orlando which are both over 45 miles away from the launch pad.

You can view images from the Zuma launch on our mission gallery page.

page updated: Monday, Jan 8, 2018, 10:01 pm 

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