A military satellite launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp appears to have crashed into the sea after a malfunction while being boosted into orbit, a potential setback for the billionaire's rocket program.
A highly classified and multibillion-dollar US spy satellite atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is presumed to have been destroyed, never reaching orbit on its Sunday launch, according to news reports. But afterward, the US Strategic Command said it wasn't tracking any new satellites, an indication that the satellite somehow failed to deploy properly.
"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", Shotwell said. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately.
This was just SpaceX's third national security mission and was seen as critically important in winning further lucrative business from the US Department of Defense.
SpaceX launched two other national security missions previous year: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane, known as the X-37B, in September. Compromising relationships with the military would carry significant consequences: Defense contract launches were estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030 in a 2014 government report.
SpaceX's Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company's launch schedule remains on track.
But Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at Teal Group, said SpaceX's cheaper launch costs and faster turnarounds for missions will still probably work in its favor with the Air Force, even if the Zuma mission were determined to be a launch failure. The satellite was lost, said one of the aides, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The satellite was said to have fallen back to Earth along with the second stage of the rocket. Northrop Grumman, the manufacture, said due to the classified nature of the mission it could not comment. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX. The thrust its 27 engines can produce is equivalent to 18 Boeing ( BA ) 747s and makes it two times more powerful than any other rocket operating today, according to SpaceX.
The fact that SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy launch will move forward as scheduled also indicates there were no issues with the rocket.
With a price tag of $62 million, the Falcon 9 was designed as a two-stage rocket, becoming the world's first orbital-class rocket with reflight capability. The webcast then concluded.
SpaceX launched a classified, multibillion-dollar spy satellite for the USA government on Sunday ― and then something went wrong. SpaceX has also declined to give details about the spacecraft. Additionally, a SpaceX rocket carrying supply missions to the International Space Station for NASA exploded in 2015. In 2014, SpaceX sued the Air Force arguing that it should be able to compete for the contracts.
The rocket went vertical at Launch Pad 39A at the space center in late December.