Highly Classified Spy Satellite Is A “Total Loss” After SpaceX Mission Fails

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Originally appeared at Zero Hedge

On Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. EST, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the secretive Zuma satellite  into space aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. However, less than a day later, the WSJ reports that the secretive spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government military industrial complex, and worth billions “is presumed to be a total loss after it failed to reach orbit.

Peter B. de Selding, a reporter for Space Intel Report, first broke the story just after at 4:00 p.m. EST on Monday. In a tweet, his sources suggested that the “Zuma satellite from @northropgrumman may be dead in orbit after separation from @SpaceX Falcon 9.”

According to the WSJ, “lawmakers and congressional staffers from the Senate and the House have been briefed about the botched mission.” Meanwhile, the secret payload—code-named Zuma and launched from Florida on board a Falcon 9 rocket—is believed to have plummeted back into the atmosphere because it didn’t separate as planned from the upper part of the rocket.

Once the engine powering the rocket’s expendable second stage stops firing, whatever it is carrying is supposed to separate and proceed on its own trajectory. If a satellite isn’t set free at the right time or is damaged upon release, it can be dragged back toward earth.

It isn’t clear what job the satellite was intended to perform, or even which U.S. agency contracted for the satellite. As usual for classified launches, the information released by SpaceX before liftoff was bereft of details about the payload. A video broadcast Sunday night narrated by a SpaceX official didn’t provide any hint of problems, though the feed ended before the planned deployment of the satellite.

The WSJ admits that the lack of details about what occurred means that some possible alternate sequence of events other than a failed separation may have been the culprit. And since this is another Musk project/failure, which means the eccentric billionaire will certainly not be tweeting up a storm explaining what went wrong, we may not know the exact reason for the failure for some time.

As of Monday night, nearly 24 hours after the launch, uncertainty surrounded both the mission and the fate of the satellite, the WSJ reports. Notably, the Pentagon’s Strategic Command, which keeps track of all commercial, scientific and national-security satellites along with space debris, hadn’t updated its catalog of objects to reflect a new satellite circling the planet.

Neither Northrop Grumman Corp., which built the satellite, nor SpaceX, as Elon Musk’s space-transportation company is called, has shed light on what happened.

A Northrop Grumman spokesman said, “We cannot comment on classified missions.”

A SpaceX spokesman said: “We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally.” That terminology typically indicates that the rocket’s engines and navigation systems operated without glitches. The spokesman declined to elaborate.

What we do know, is that the secretive spy satellite was worth “billions”, which makes this the second billion-dollar satellite Musk has managed to lose up in two years; Facebook’s internet satellite was strapped on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, which it spontaneously blew up on the launch pad in September 2016.

The failure could be a major setback for SpaceX, since government contracts can tend to be extremely lucrative and taxpayers will now demand alternatives to the Musk venture. Further, the company faces fierce competition for ULA, operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, who will kick off its 2018 launch schedule with a Wednesday flight.

The failure also comes at a very sensitive time for SpaceX:  Musk’s closely held company has projected ramping up its overall launch rate to more than 25 missions in 2018, from 18 in 2017, and is scheduled to start ferrying U.S. astronauts to the international space station before the end of the year.

Good luck to them all, because while Musk is certainly best known for his success, we can now add one more failure to the list.

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  • EmilyEnso

    So this top secret satelite appears to have been destroyed.
    It is certainly great news for the free countries of the world and for their people.
    Count me in.
    Good start to 2018.
    Mr Musk – I thank you.

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  • HardHawk

    with out Russian technology the stupid amerikans can never go to space again. And I been wondering with all their alleged technology, they can not go to space or even put a sat in it now 21est century and they been selling to the world the bed time stories as to how they went to the moon in the 60s.

    it seems their holyshit stories are catching up with them.

    • gustavo

      Did USA put a foot in the moon ? Have you seen all those picture with stars ? do you think this is possible in the moon without atmosphere ?

      • Solomon Krupacek

        this is question of quality of camera.

        • nshah

          Of course it’s always about the camera.. hehehe.. while their technology can snoopped a car registration number from space as claimed..!

          • Solomon Krupacek

            sorry, but in 60ties were shit cameras.

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        Problem is no other countries want to participate in the space program again like they did , way too costly and benefits are few and far between.

        • nshah

          Further more.. it’s just an illicit business to extort more money from their slumbers citizens for the rich.. 3-4 billions for the project.. and only millions to build the rest goes into their pockets.. then starts all over again & doomed it again..! keep on slumbering ohhh citizen of that nation of the far, far away dream land..

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            That is how the NATO pact worked and has ended up making all a vassal to the US and why its dissolution is paramount. The US would become impotent as they wouldn’t be able to project their power anymore without causing some issues.

        • FlorianGeyer

          I thought the moon was abundant with cheese ?

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            Well I heard Hey,diddle,diddle, the cat and the fiddle. The Cow jumped over the moon and the little dog laughed to see such sport and the Dish ran away with the Spoon. I always wondered what happened to Fork, and the Knife , always coming up short,well I guess that’s life.

      • nshah

        hahaha.. you’re right..! I just commented above.. Thumbs up..

    • John Whitehot

      the shuttle was an ambitious and successful concept. But it failed because of the corruption of private ventures who supplied cheaper parts to NASA.

      • nshah

        Hahaha lol.. it’s all BS.. it’s money making project.. And to understand these you need lots of knowledge and calculations.. And I don’t ask anyone to buy my words..! Digged it..
        Peace

    • Solomon Krupacek

      bullshit. yanks have own technology. but russian is sooooo cheap. russia needs dollars, therefore sells out everything for dumping prize. yanks develope nem engine. be sure, in several years nobody will use russian technology. kazchstan declines from russia, closes baykonur. what then?

      • Igor Dano

        Dirty zionazijew, how many did your grandfather kill 100 years ago during Jewish revolution in Russia?

      • Daniel Castro

        Sounds to me they can’t compete with russian technology on a matter of cost/benefit, you’re reverting the logics of capitalism.

        They might have the tech, but if they don’t use it, don’t invest on it because they can’t compete, soon they will be so far behind they won’t be able to catch up anymore.

        For me SpaceX is a bad concept, rocket goes through too much stress to be reused, and the devices used to land the rocket back add more weight, which forces the rocket into being more powerfull to carry more fuel, instead of going after reusable rockets they should develop further less expensive expandable ones.

        That said of course there are interesting technologies this research could develop, it’s just I don’t see it being usefull for your conventional satelite rocket.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          Sounds to me they can’t compete with russian technology on a matter of cost/benefit

          no. the market is deformed by russian underproductioncostspice.

          i am not a fan of spacex. but better is to support initiatives than sit on ass. goddard, ciokovskiy are clear examles, how is important the activity of private persons.

          if russians will not innovate, they fall out from this last sector, where they are good in civil industry. india has cheaper rockets, china too. the european ariadne in the last 15 years had no accident. the time of monopolosation of market comes to the end.

          • Daniel Castro

            Well, if russia is strong enough to determinate the market of space rockets that tells you something, don’t you?

            But, you’re right, if they sit on their success others will reach them, but it doesn’t seem like the west is on conditions to catch up just yet.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            but not determines. the proton is old rocket. all others are newer and develope newist. russia not. russia has no rockets for moon misiion, no rockets for mars mission. check the last programs 95% non-russian discover of solar sytem. huble, etc., nothing russian. russia also in this field declines. slowly, but sure.

            here are links, which underline what i tell you:

            http://spaceflight101.com/2016-space-launch-statistics/

            http://spacelaunchreport.com/log2017.html

            russia/ussr was before the world in space station technology. but was not able to use this advantage. inbetween all countries learned a lot and prepare for mars – without russia.

          • Daniel Castro

            Tell me which is the only country delivering astronauts to ISS?

            Yes.

            1st the west should get back to the level they were on the 60s, then you we can talk, before that it’s only rethoric.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            please understan. iss is only 1 project among hundreds. west is now far, far further then in 60ties. and russia is still in beginning of 90ties.

            we were happy when ussr tested new rocket energiya, the shuttle buran. and everything let dies these alcoholic russians :(

          • Daniel Castro

            No, if you’re not lifting human beings to space, you’re not lifting human beings to space, period.

            What, do you think they will magically make a spaceship to go to Mars?!

            Certainly not. There are several steps to test and develop these systems, 1st you
            test a highpower rocket to lift heavy cargo to space, then you lift the spaceship and return her on te automatic to test it, probably more than one time probably, then you start testing with humans, you’re probably going to the moon before mars because it’s closer and it has less gravity, so it is less stressfull to test the systems, and less expensive, then after you have a completely proven system you go to Mars.

            Right now the west doesn’t even have the heavy lifter, the west is still on the stage of developing the 1st step, it deosn’t have the rocket, and because it doesn’t have the rocket they don’t even have an idea of what spaceship they are projecting, talking about Mars right now is a huge conjecture, for me it’s just propaganda, any country talking about Mars is just spreading propaganda, the world doesn’t have the economy at the moment for such projects, we’re wasting everything in conflicts and debauchery.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            western countries have heavy lifter. they are not behind russia. space shuttle can move more materials then any russian rocket. america has saturn V motors. no problem, simply they want much better then now. they develope. russia not. and this is problem. btw., chines, indans, americans and europeans can lift persons. chine uses own rockets, west simply use cheap russian moduls. but as you saw, the development does fast forward and in 10 years russia will be marginal. already now is only 14% of all starts. and in this are imncluded americans if use russian rockets. all the time i talk about declining of russia. and until now you did not show any real information, which new types will have russia in 8-10 years, when there wil be 4-5 highly advanced alternatives. one decade goes away very fast.

          • Daniel Castro

            What space shuttle? There are no operational space shuttles.

            Saturn V is uber expensive, and again, 60s technology.

            West can lift persons using russian models?! LOL

            I’m not talking India and China.

            “all the time i talk about declining of russia. and until now you did not show any real information, which new types will have russia in 8-10 years”

            Problem is current russian rockets are already competitive, so it is the west who must catch them. IF only there are inumerous economic and military reasons for Russia to slow down their comercial rocket launches, we don’t have this kind of info, but as I said I agree with you if they just sit on their success they will be left behind, just like it happened to NASA.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            i dont agree with you

          • John Whitehot

            lolololol, the space shuttle program has been closed after two accidents that killed two entire crews in 1985 and 2003.

            the saturn V has been shut down with the apollo program because it costs like a 500’000 inhabitants city, and because “bigger rockets” can be supplanted by smaller ones strapped together, or by solid fuel boosters.

            either you gotta be kidding or you are intellectually perverted.

          • Solomon Krupacek

            whiethood, saturn v was stopped beacuse of stopping moon travels. for mars can be used. russia has nothin similar. russia has no space shuttle. yanks will use shuttles again. but the next generation.

          • Daniel Castro

            Saturn V is too expensive, of course it is powerfull because it is huge, but in a matter of fact that it is old technology and far more inneficient than new rockets, it is possible today to build a heavy lifter with that power but with smaller much less expensive engines.

          • John Whitehot

            “yanks will use shuttles again. but the next generation”

            with which money? more debt?

            “aturn v was stopped beacuse of stopping moon travels. for mars can be used”

            not at all. Multiple launches of other rockets and assembly in orbit is the modern way.

            The only reason the US has put foot on the moon (always if it’s true) is that Cape Canaveral is much closer to the equator than any launch facility the Soviets had.

            This fact above, undeniable and undebatable, and I’m awaiting Rymill to drop a line, is what western propaganda has never ever tell but everybody with a general knowledge in space rocketry knows.

            Because being closer to equator, you need much less powerful engines to reach orbit, which in turn mean you need to bring up much less fuel, which means much less weight and so on.

            The Saturn V was a monster in this respect, and was probably largely overdone, for the usual capitalist meme that “costlier is better”.

          • John Whitehot

            the first link is hilarious where it explains basically that “The US lost a rocket too but we don’t include it in the list because it exploded on the pad”.

          • John Whitehot

            even without arguing about rockets, which you do with the pretext that Russian made ones are worse because “it can’t be otherwise”, access to space isn’t only a matter of launchers.

            The only countries with a space infrastructure (launching pads, tracking facilities, deep space communications and satellites) solid enough to access space at their leisure are Russia and the US, although the latter is gradually losing its capability in no small part due to spacex, which much likely has pumped millions of dollars into congressmen’s pockets to lobby for gradual dismantlement of NASA and to get monopoly on US space ops.

        • nshah

          Its been built to doomed as to extort more $$ for the rich, MIC & NASA

        • Graeme Rymill

          SpaceX is currently cutting the cost of getting satellites into orbit drastically.

          The US launched 29 rockets into orbit in 2017 with zero failures. Russia launched 20 rockets with 1 failure. SpaceX alone, with 17 launches, almost launched as many rockets as Russia. In 2017 SpaceX successfully relanded 14 first stages. It had no relanding failures.

          • Daniel Castro

            Satelites, there’s huge difference from satelites to spaceships.

            Do yo uhave any info if they have already reused one of their rockets?

          • Graeme Rymill

            Yes SpaceX has launched re-used first stages five times so far….

            It has also re-used a Dragon 2 space capsule to resupply the International Space Station – but only the once.

            “Satelites, there’s huge difference from satelites to spaceships.” – They both need rockets to get them into space. The cheaper the better!

          • Daniel Castro

            “Yes SpaceX has launched re-used first stages five times so far….”

            Neat! As I said I’m pretty sceptical about this, for me the ammount of stress on the rocket will cause reliability issues, but if possible I do hope they suceed.

            “They both need rockets to get them into space.”

            Yes, but spaceships need much more powerfull heavier rockets, and there is also the human factor, if the reutilization of rockets increase the risk of accidents (and right now it does), this is a limitation.

      • John Whitehot

        “russia needs dollars”

        it appears that solomonia is distant about ten years light from earth, as you seem to be typing from the early nineties. Considering the time lapse, all seem to sum up.

        It’s a pity that you will know what will happen to the dollar in the next few years with such delay.

        • Solomon Krupacek

          yes, i see,
          a) russia has no money
          b) near chinese border
          c) etc.

          • John Whitehot

            a) Russia has enough money, has massive strategic resources, and above all, has NO DEBT, which means it is FREE.
            b)so? Cape Canaveral is less than 100 miles from Cuba, what reasoning is behind the b point?

  • Jesus

    This is typically of misguided American entrepreneurship, where a joker became a billionaire because of the novelty concepts he espoused, not real tangible effort or success……in reality his company the products and services perform rather poorly.

    • Solomon Krupacek

      they try to find different waxs. and will find. russia will decline with proton. already the ariadne is better than proton. be sure, for yanks is no pain this loss. they have enpugh money for successfull repeat.
      by the way commie, ciolkovskiy was russian elon musk. :P withot him you were nowhere.

      • John Whitehot

        ariane is no better than proton. show the proof that it is and we can argue.

  • Barba_Papa

    Elon Musk: Yikes! I could use a distraction. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6cnQA17xIw

  • Garga

    When and where the US government or spook agencies are involved, it’s hard for me to believe the official explanation.
    It may be the truth or it may be a lie. After all, it was a spy sat and if it doesn’t exist officially you’re one more step ahead. However, it’s not that hard to detect satellites in earth’s orbit, unless it’s invisible to both radars and cameras.

    By the way, any news on the return and landing of the first stage booster?

    • John Whitehot

      All the americans cheering for SpaceX will understand later what does it mean to entrust private corporations with the access to space for the country. It’s already a joke that the US space program must rely on SpaceX to get astronauts to the ISS.

      But giving them their MilSats instead of launching them themselves (and they have all the capabilities) is an absurdity. I would think as you said that there is some spookish game on this, yet the downward spiral in judgement and common sense that has been interesting all segments of the US society these years may very well tell us that this really happened.

      • nshah

        Well, NASA itself is already a joke.. from apolo to zumar lol..!

      • Graeme Rymill

        SpaceX is currently saving US taxpayers multimillions of dollars by launching military satellites for substantially lower amounts of money than their commercial rival (United Launch Alliance – co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin).

        If this is sustainable in the long run it can mean only one thing – much cheaper rocket launches for both civilian and military rockets. From an American perspective what is there not to like about this?

        “A joke”; “absurdity”; ” downward spiral in judgement and common sense” – the ridicule is there but where is the argument to back the ridicule up?

        • FlorianGeyer

          Whether there is or not, its lightened my day Graeme.

          • John Whitehot

            so you team up with Rymill now.

          • FlorianGeyer

            Only if I agree with something he says. I am amused that the latest US launch is likely a failure.

        • John Whitehot

          the argument is that, if you want access to space, taxpayer’s money is well spent on the means of access, much better spent than for example buying weapons for jihadists.

          If you can’t understand that, you are hopelessly brainwashed, or intellectually corrupted.

          The USAF has its means to launch satellites and the only reason it entrusts them to privates is lobbying and corruption in congressional places.

          • Graeme Rymill

            Dear John,

            The USAF seems to want to launch satellites for the least money possible. At the moment that is definitely SpaceX. A military satellite is exactly the same as a civilian satellite in terms of launching. It is simply a matter of getting X tons of satellite into the correct orbit for the least amount of dollars. There is no special military expertise required for launch.

            From hopelessly brainwashed and intellectually corrupted,

            Graeme Rymill

          • John Whitehot

            “A military satellite is exactly the same as a civilian satellite in terms of launching”

            No doubt. There is a much different situation in regards to national security though. To make a foolproof example: I’m a private contractor and you give me your secret satellites and money to launch it. Then a foreign country pays me some billions to gather info on it, in addition of buying from me all the data in my possession (which, when analyzed, can reveal a lot).

            Another example: tomorrow the USAF loses the means to access space, as it “costs too much” as you say. I’m the private contractor, that now has total monopoly over the access of american assets to space.

            Then Russia, or China, develop some new system, say, something that can drop hypersonic warheads from satellites with pinpoint accuracy and no possible defence from earth. At this point, I’m going to charge infinite amounts of money to the USAF to deploy defensive systems in space.

            The taxpayers ? To cite V.Nuland, “Fuck the taxpayers”.

          • Graeme Rymill

            Having the military launch satellites is no guarantee that secrets are safe. John Walker was a US Navy Warrant Officer. He lead what is regarded as the most damaging Soviet spy ring in history.

            A monopoly on launches? Not ideal. However the United Launch Alliance had a monopoly on USAF launches since 2006 and the sky didn’t fall in. It was SpaceX’s legal challenges to this monopoly that forced the US government to permit SpaceX to enter the military satellite launch business. If SpaceX becomes a monopoly due to it pricing out its competitors presumably new competitors will emerge. SpaceX isn’t the only game in town.

            New unstoppable missile systems? No different from the current position. The US cannot stop a massive Russian or Chinese ICBM strike if it were to occur.

            Yet again it looks like we will have to agree to disagree on this topic.

            Go SpaceX!!!!!! :-)

      • FlorianGeyer

        Russian made rockets are better I think :)

        IF this was part of Trumps ‘Fire and Fury ‘ , possibly a space based laser of some sort, he should now tweet ‘Fire and Fizzle’ instead.

    • Pave Way IV

      Re: first stage – returned/landed as expected.
      https://youtu.be/n5y2-9BeGcc?t=491

  • Pave Way IV

    Al Masdar News: BREAKING

    Houthis announce their anti-satellite missile successful at intercepting the Falcon 9’s payload – a Saudi/Israeli Zuma surveillance satellite – immediately after its separation from the rocket’s second-stage. Houthis: “Is that all you stupid cucks got? We can do this all day, you know. Get the hell out of our country.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/105e199c32776813c3c997e80e5c1c716b56960441b97ef29145e84abc782c08.jpg

    Pentagon officials immediately claimed that Iran supplied the anti-satellite missile to Yemen’s Houthis, apparently smuggled under a cargo of poor-quality Saudi dates. “The dates were harvested far too early by incompotent Saudis and had an unpleasant gritty, greasy texture. I would not feed them to an Emerati or a goat,” remarked a Houthi Missile Command spokesperson.

    Pictured below: Iranian-supplied missile technology being prepared for shipment to Yemen. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2461cbd7b8b670b6623e4e8142be9bac72262db0d630fc4acac97d30b3a45641.jpg

    • Solomon Krupacek

      april 1st

    • PZIVJ

      EXCELLENT :DDD

    • FlorianGeyer

      Wonderful :) :)

  • Igor Dano

    Musk is a CIA front.
    All his companies have CIA background, either they have been established by CIA, or CIA is investor (via eg inqtel).
    Hence CIA wants to own a delivery capacity to orbit, bypassing the government. Everybody except (((jo9o9))) Kupacek, will understand why.
    SpaceX develops the technology for them. And somebody will pay it(the tax payer) somebody will get rich, eg (((jjjo99oooo))) Musk and CIA will get their weapon.
    Then they shop up killing satellites and will kill persons from orbit.

    • John Whitehot

      and the CIA is a zionist front.

  • José Filho

    Envious!

  • Sam 1234

    Southfront has not done its due dilligence on this. The satelite used its OWN system of delivery from the 2nd stage – as opposed to most other falcon deliveries where a space-x delivery mechanism is used. So in the end it is 100% Northrop Grumman’s fault and ZERO space-x.
    So we can now NOT add another failure…

  • EmilyEnso

    https://www.zerohedge.com/comment/10974731
    From Zerohedge.
    Do we really know what happened to the satelite for absolute certain.
    Let us hope its well and truly destroyed..
    As usual we will have to rely on Russian information to be totally sure – if its forthcoming….

  • nshah

    Yeah.
    it’s good for the Americans.. they have to forked out more and subsidies the fake business of the MIC & NASA .. just keep on slumbering doh..!