Highly Classified Spy Satellite Is A "Total Loss" After SpaceX Mission Fails

On Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. EST, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the secretive Zuma satellite  into space aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. However, less than a day later, the WSJ reports that the secretive spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government military industrial complex, and worth billions "is presumed to be a total loss after it failed to reach orbit."

Peter B. de Selding, a reporter for Space Intel Report, first broke the story just after at 4:00 p.m. EST on Monday. In a tweet, his sources suggested that the “Zuma satellite from @northropgrumman may be dead in orbit after separation from @SpaceX Falcon 9.”

According to the WSJ, "lawmakers and congressional staffers from the Senate and the House have been briefed about the botched mission." Meanwhile, the secret payload—code-named Zuma and launched from Florida on board a Falcon 9 rocket—is believed to have plummeted back into the atmosphere because it didn’t separate as planned from the upper part of the rocket.

Once the engine powering the rocket’s expendable second stage stops firing, whatever it is carrying is supposed to separate and proceed on its own trajectory. If a satellite isn’t set free at the right time or is damaged upon release, it can be dragged back toward earth.

It isn’t clear what job the satellite was intended to perform, or even which U.S. agency contracted for the satellite. As usual for classified launches, the information released by SpaceX before liftoff was bereft of details about the payload. A video broadcast Sunday night narrated by a SpaceX official didn’t provide any hint of problems, though the feed ended before the planned deployment of the satellite.

The WSJ admits that the lack of details about what occurred means that some possible alternate sequence of events other than a failed separation may have been the culprit. And since this is another Musk project/failure, which means the eccentric billionaire will certainly not be tweeting up a storm explaining what went wrong, we may not know the exact reason for the failure for some time.

As of Monday night, nearly 24 hours after the launch, uncertainty surrounded both the mission and the fate of the satellite, the WSJ reports. Notably, the Pentagon’s Strategic Command, which keeps track of all commercial, scientific and national-security satellites along with space debris, hadn’t updated its catalog of objects to reflect a new satellite circling the planet.

Neither Northrop Grumman Corp., which built the satellite, nor SpaceX, as Elon Musk’s space-transportation company is called, has shed light on what happened.

A Northrop Grumman spokesman said, “We cannot comment on classified missions.”

A SpaceX spokesman said: “We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally.” That terminology typically indicates that the rocket’s engines and navigation systems operated without glitches. The spokesman declined to elaborate.

What we do know, is that the secretive spy satellite was worth "billions", which makes this the second billion-dollar satellite Musk has managed to lose up in two years; Facebook’s internet satellite was strapped on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, which it spontaneously blew up on the launch pad in September 2016.

The failure could be a major setback for SpaceX, since government contracts can tend to be extremely lucrative and taxpayers will now demand alternatives to the Musk venture. Further, the company faces fierce competition for ULA, operated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, who will kick off its 2018 launch schedule with a Wednesday flight.

The failure also comes at a very sensitive time for SpaceX:  Musk’s closely held company has projected ramping up its overall launch rate to more than 25 missions in 2018, from 18 in 2017, and is scheduled to start ferrying U.S. astronauts to the international space station before the end of the year.

Good luck to them all, because while Musk is certainly best known for his success, we can now add one more failure to the list.


greenskeeper carl Shemp 4 Victory Mon, 01/08/2018 - 23:17 Permalink

I have a longstanding bet with a friend of mine thats a Musk/Tesla/SpaceX fan regarding his ambitions for space tourism. I'd have bet him pretty much anything except the wife or kids that it wouldn't happen, but I dropped it down to something small so that I won't feel too bad making him pay up. The odds, which I felt were already about 99% in my favor are now probably like 99.9%. He's gotta get .gov approval to put people in those things, which I think he was hoping to have by the end of the year. I'm guessing this sets him back a bit.

In reply to by Shemp 4 Victory

chiquita HowdyDoody Tue, 01/09/2018 - 10:19 Permalink

"is presumed to be a total loss after it failed to reach orbit."

Okay--if this was lost and did not reach orbit, where on earth is the debris going to fall on the planet?  Or did it already fall somewhere?  Let's start there.   Was this not supposedly the payload that contained the red Tesla destined for Mars?  Seems to me that would make a pretty big splash or hole wherever it came down.


In reply to by HowdyDoody

Tao 4 the Show The Alarmist Tue, 01/09/2018 - 03:43 Permalink

Most people don't think about it, but the way the Deep State works is through corporations. SpaceX is just the NASA replacement.  HC's email server was just a cheap homespun imitation of the concept - that is, get anything important out of the way of any accountability. You can't FOIA private documents. 


The little secret no one talks about us that greedy little dark room scheming (i.e. Deep State) does not have the ingredients to build and operate complex ventures. Bad will does not replace good will. 

For those who know complexity theory, it is a simple logistics equation: Good will builds until it peaks out and gets lazy, then Bad Will tries to co-opt the structures built by Good Will. However, Bad Will can only ultimately break down and decay. The fantasy of evil is only and ever a fantasy, not reality. The system then eventually collapses until Good Will wakes up and re-groups. 

In reply to by The Alarmist

HopefulCynical hedgeless_horseman Tue, 01/09/2018 - 08:14 Permalink

Think of the comparison between an illusionist and an actual wizard. Voodoo, for instance, is totally power of suggestion. If you know with perfect certainty that it has no actual power, it can't hurt you.

Likewise the bad will he's talking about. It appears successful, just like a farmer who eats his seed corn is well fed...for a little while. Then he starves, and someone who knows what they're doing takes over that land.

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

Gather those r… hedgeless_horseman Tue, 01/09/2018 - 09:05 Permalink

Discussion of philosophical creedos like these require time scales. 

If the fantasy of evil (before falling to reality) extends beyond human life expectancies, then the break down is worthless to a human being.

The book of Revelation teaches Bad Will indeed will break down.  Only it will take the span of human civilization for this to occur. 

… Coming soon??    

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

Akzed Gather those r… Tue, 01/09/2018 - 09:38 Permalink

"The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." -Rev. 1:1-3

The book is about the siege and sack of Jerusalem. Note the language is imminent, not intended to be understood of events 2,000 years in the future.

In reply to by Gather those r…

Ralph Spoilsport bluez Tue, 01/09/2018 - 10:09 Permalink

Gordon Duff? Give me a break. Both he and Veterans Today have been discredited so many times it's not funny. Duff is a delusional bullshit artist who gets on interview shows claiming to be someone well connected to the IC and SF community. In reality, none of them want this blabbering narcissist anywhere near their operations.

In reply to by bluez