SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, launched on Sunday, has failed to deliver a secret US government package into the Earth’s orbit. Codenamed Zuma, the cargo is widely believed to have been a satellite and follows Sunday’s successful launch from SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida.
Although the rocket was successful at ‘stage one’, the package failed to separate from the rocket and burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere in ‘stage two’. American aerospace and defence company Northrup Grumman, who worked with SpaceX on behalf of the US government, has confirmed that ‘stage two’ would have fired Zuma into low-Earth orbit.
Compared to previous missions, Zuma is so highly classified that there is almost no information on it, even which branch of the US administration commissioned it. Being fired into low-Earth orbit suggests it might have been a military or espionage project.
Because of the sensitive nature of the mission, the progress of the rocket has not been disclosed. SpaceX has refused to comment on Zuma but has refuted allegations of a fault with the Falcon 9 rocket.
The loss of Zuma makes it the second time in two years that Elon Musk’s SpaceX has lost highly valuable cargoes. In 2016, a Facebook satellite was destroyed in preflight preparations when the Falcon 9 rocket it was carried on exploded.
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