Pentagon Refuses to Say What Happened to 'Lost' Spy Satellite Zuma
Last week, one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 carried ZUMA, thought to be a secret spy satellite worth around a billion dollars, into orbit. It seems things didn't go as planned, however—ZUMA has been announced missing and even referred to as a "write-off." There is some speculation that it failed to separate from the rocket and fell into the ocean, but either way, Pentagon officials are refusing to answer direct questions.
This past Thursday at a press briefing, Defense Department spokesperson Dana White was asked several times by reporters to reveal information about the failure of ZUMA, but repeatedly told them to direct their questions to SpaceX and claimed that the "classified nature of all of this" meant she could not go into details.
The confusing thing is that, according to everyone involved, SpaceX wasn't to blame for the failure of ZUMA. According to Northrop Grumman, also involved in the launch:
"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."
With this in mind, it doesn't make sense for the Pentagon to direct questions to SpaceX, since the problem doesn't seem to be on their end. Even more confusing is the true nature of ZUMA—according to SpaceNews, it's unclear whether the payload launched by SpaceX was truly a spy satellite or something more experimental:
"My guess is that this was an experimental rather than operational payload. If it were operational, it would have been flown by ULA (United Launch Alliance)."
Until the Defense Department opens up, we won't know the whole story. SpaceX, however, will continue its operations with US government, including planned collaborations with NASA.