Why SpaceX's Government Mission Is Such a Big Secret
On Thursday night, SpaceX will launch a mysterious satellite into into low earth orbit for the U.S. government, and that’s the bulk of what anyone knows about it. And that the mission is codenamed Zuma.
A SpaceX falcon 9 rocket will launch from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral at some time between 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern. into low earth orbit. The mission, codenamed Zuma, was supposed to take place on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, but was moved to Thursday. A SpaceX falcon 9 rocket will launch from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral at some time between 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern.
“SpaceX is now targeting Thursday, Nov. 16, for [the] launch of the Zuma mission,” SpaceX said in a statement. “Both Falcon 9 and the payload remain healthy; teams will use the extra day to conduct some additional mission assurance work in advance of launch.”
There’s not much to say about the Zuma mission because most of it involves classified information. What we do know is that the payload — designed by defense technology company Northrop Grumman — will fly atop a Falcon 9 rocket into low earth orbit, hopefully tomorrow evening. According to Space.com, the Falon 9 first stage rocket should return to Earth about 10 minutes after liftoff and will land back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Besides that, details are thin — we have no idea which government agency is behind the mission, for example.
“Northrop Grumman is proud to be part of the Zuma launch,” Lon Rains, communications director for Northrop Grumman’s space systems division, said in a statement shared with Space.com. “The event represents a cost-effective approach to space access for government missions. As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes that this is a monumental responsibility and has taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.”
Thursday’s mission will mark SpaceX’s third classified launch this year, and its 17th launch overall. It has delivered payloads on behalf of U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and the Air Force and as you can image, there’s not a lot of information on either mission.
In any case, ad astra, SpaceX. Good luck with whatever you’re doing.
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