Last week, SOFREP reported on what was to be SpaceX’s first launch of the year: a mysterious payload funded by the federal government and provided by Northop Grumman. For some reason, SpaceX was treating this mission with more secrecy than any previous launch, including those conducted for the National Reconnaissance Office and even deployment missions for the Air Force’s secretive X-37B. The mysteries surrounding SpaceX’s Zuma mission have only grown since it took to the skies however, as the payload is now being reported as a total loss… with SpaceX claiming unequivocally that they were not responsible for the failure.
The classified satellite is now believed to have burned up on reentry, after failing to separate from the Falcon 9’s second stage. If SpaceX is to blame, the ramifications could be significant. SpaceX employees speaking on the condition of anonymity have reported that Musk himself refereed to the Zuma mission as “the most important thing the company has ever launched,” and estimates from numerous sources within the organization place the value of the Zuma payload at right around one billion dollars.
When asked for a statement, Northrop Grumman spokespeople would only say, “This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions.”
Peter B. de Selding, a reporter for Space Intel Report, first broke that the classified satellite appeared to be “dead in orbit after seperation” on Sunday, apparently citing anonymous government sources. Since then, a number of outlets have been able to confirm the failure of the satellite, but questions remain as to what exactly caused the failure – especially after SpaceX released a statement suggesting that there had been no failure in the Falcon 9 platform used to ferry the payload into orbit.