When an expensive, secret space rocket is launched and then is no longer accounted for, conspiracy theorists go wild. This is exactly what happened with the recent launch by SpaceX of a top-secret payload made by Northrop Grumman for some undeclared U.S. government agency.
The launch went off without any problems. What appeared to observers to be a sudden loss of the live video feed of the launch was a planned event. The U.S. government insisted on a media blackout of certain parts of the launch because of the top-secret nature of the rocket’s payload.
Time reported that SpaceX confirmed it cut the live fee when the payload separated from the rocket. SpaceX resumed the live video feed to show the successful upright landing of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage, which SpaceX intends to reuse in the future.
To add to the mystery, there is a concern that the mission was a billion-dollar failure. Most think the payload was some kind of spy satellite or a space weapon. Others think it could be a new experimental space plane. SpaceNews reported that the Pentagon refused to confirm whether the mission succeeded or failed.
Gwynne Shotwell, who is President and COO of SpaceX said that the Falcon 9 rocket launch went successfully as planned. SpaceX has not changed any of its future scheduling and planned reuse of the rocket parts, which indicates that the SpaceX portion of the mission was a success.
Northrop Grumman made the payload and the adapter needed to launch it, but they will not say anything about the mission either. The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed government sources who said that the payload was thought to be completely lost because it failed to reach the proper orbit after it disengaged from the Falcon 9 rocket. Prior to this recent launch, there was an attempt to launch the Zuma project during November 2017 that was canceled due to technological problems.
Until we learn more, it seems like the United States blasted a billion-dollar thing into space and nobody has any idea what actually happened to it or if they do know what happened they are not telling anything more about it. If the top-secret payload was a satellite it could have made it into orbit then failed to function properly. Amateur astronomers are on the lookout for the mysterious satellite and should be able to see if it is in orbit sometime over the next few weeks.
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