US Spy Satellite Disappears Shortly After SpaceX Launch

Tuesday, 09 January 2018 - 10:42AM

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket with a top-secret payload on Sunday, but something went wrong. According to reports, the payload for the ZUMA mission was a U.S. spy satellite, and while the first stage of the rocket launch went as planned, the satellite failed to reach orbit and has been assumed lost. 

Built by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the satellite failed to separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9 after the launch from Cape Canaveral.

Officials believe that it broke up in our atmosphere or plummeted into the sea. Because of the classified nature of the mission, they were not able to say much, but one official did reportedly refer to the missing satellite as a "write-off."

NBC News reports that there is an investigation underway to figure out what went wrong, but adds that there is nothing so far to suggest that the mission was sabotaged or interfered with in any way. 

"We do not comment on missions of this nature," said SpaceX spokesperson James Gleeson, "but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally." 

Northrop Grumman Corporation also said in a statement that nothing went wrong with the rocket. "For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible."

Falcon 9 landed safely without its payload and will be tested and reused at some point in the future. SpaceX shared a gallery of images of the takeoff and landing online, but did not mention the missing satellite, probably because they are not allowed to. Maybe we will never know what actually happened up there.