SpaceX defends rocket performance after loss of USA spy satellite

Reuters

Congressional inquiries into the satellite failure may revive debate about SpaceX's rivalry for military contracts with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Known only by a code name, Zuma, the satellite was launched Sunday evening by SpaceX on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

"I don't think we can know", Ketcham said.

"Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight", SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement released yesterday. SpaceX's review so far indicates that "no design, operational or other changes are needed", she said. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible. When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months. The company doesn't anticipate any impact on its upcoming launch schedule, including a Falcon 9 mission in three weeks.

A secret spacecraft launched by a SpaceX rocket on Sunday failed to enter a stable orbit and was lost. If they find it, the discovery could suggest a satellite error rendering Zuma dead on arrival instead of a launch error, which would have sent it crashing into the ocean. Under mounting pressure from SpaceX, he was sacked, and ULA's new CEO, Tory Bruno, vowed to "literally transform" the company in order to compete with Musk - and he also continued to champion ULA's track record of successful launches. The sources would not confirm what exactly the payload was, saying it was classified. As it is a secret mission, neither SpaceX nor Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the Zuma satellite, have disclosed any information about top-secret Zuma mission. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX.

According to an Instagram post in December, Musk said the first payload will be a red Tesla Roadster playing David Bowie's Space Oddity on a billion-year elliptical Mars orbit. The launch had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week's extreme weather on the East Coast contributing to the most recent delay.

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SpaceX's new, powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, was at its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, awaiting an engine test-firing sometime this week. The company later said it had cleared the issue. The webcast then concluded.

For example, Northrop Grumman provided its own payload adaptor for the Zuma mission - a device that physically separates the satellite from the upper part of the rocket during deployment.

Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who heads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, said in a statement Wednesday that "space is a risky business" but his panel remains "committed to providing rigorous oversight that accounts for that risk and ensures that we can meet all of our national security space requirements as the Air Force looks to competitively procure space launch services in the future".

It has been competing with other private companies to launch more military payloads.

Once Falcon Heavy launches, it will be the most powerful rocket now flying.

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