It's not official, but sources say the secretive Zuma satellite was lost


SpaceX is pushing back on claims that the Falcon 9 rocket suffered an alleged malfunction following its launch from Cape Canaveral on Sunday.

She went on to say the classified nature of the cargo kept her from saying anything else.

Reports have said that defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation-which built the satellite-chose Elon Musk's SpaceX as its launch vehicle.

The U.S. government commissioned SpaceX for the classified Zuma mission, but its details have been kept under wraps since past year.

This was just SpaceX's third national security mission and was seen as critically important in winning further lucrative business from the US Department of Defense.

So if there was a problem, who's at fault? "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately", SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in an emailed statement. The other aide said both the satellite and second-stage rocket fell into the ocean.

Late on Sunday night, SpaceX launched a satellite manufactured by Northrop Grumman out of Florida. "We can not comment on classified missions".

While the landing was nearly ideal, the company did not go on to confirm that the mission was a success, at least officially, according to Ars Technica. Few details about the satellite are officially known besides its codename "Zuma", not even which government agency meant to use the satellite nor for what goal. What we know for sure is that the first stage of the rocket behaved nominally enough such that it was able to safely return to Earth and make a land-based landing along the Florida coast. "It falls more on Northrup", Jim Cantrell, an early SpaceX employee who is now the CEO of Vector, a micro satellite launch startup, told NBC News.

SpaceX had a spectacular launch this weekend, on January 7, which was capped by a near flawless landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. The satellite was destined for low-Earth orbit, Robin Seemangal wrote for Wired late a year ago, and unlike most launches, the satellite manufacturer Northrop Grumman, not SpaceX, supplied the payload adapter used to secure the satellite during launch and release it into orbit.

A secret spacecraft launched by a SpaceX rocket on Sunday failed to enter a stable orbit and was lost.

Whether the Falcon 9 Zuma mission failed or not, SpaceX is now setting its sights on the Falcon Heavy debut launch.

On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years.

SpaceX competes for military launches with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp, which was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly.

Shotwell added: "Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule". Then there's SpaceX - the private launch company contracted to send the satellite into orbit.

This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.