SpaceX Customer Says Company's Latest Launch Failure Isn't Elon Musk's Fault

Of course it wasn’t Elon’s fault - nothing ever is.

Less than a week after SpaceX’s failure to launch the mysterious Zuma satellite into orbit - the payload, which presumably cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to develop, failed to separate properly from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was carrying it - a major customer of SpaceX, Musk’s space-oriented venture that has essentially become a successor to NASA, defended the company, speculated that the blame for the failure lay not with Musk, but with the hacks over at longtime defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

Here’s Bloomberg:

A major SpaceX customer spoke up for Elon Musk’s rocket company, pinning the blame for a secret military satellite’s disappearance on defense company Northrop Grumman Corp.

Matt Desch, chief executive officer of satellite operator Iridium Communications Inc., said that as the launch contractor, Northrop Grumman deserves the blame for the loss last weekend of the satellite, which is presumed to have crashed into the ocean in the secretive mission code-named Zuma.

“This is a typical industry smear job on the ‘upstart’ trying to disrupt the launch industry,” Desch said on Twitter Thursday in response to a news article. "SpaceX didn’t have a failure, Northrop Grumman did. Notice that no one in the media is interested in that story. SpaceX will pay the price as the one some will try to bring low."

As we reported ahead of the launch, which was repeatedly delayed with only a vague explanation, many of the details about Zuma’s provenance and purpose remain a mystery. The job the satellite was intended to perform and even the identity of the US agency that contracted the satellite aren’t known.



News of the launch failure didn’t surface until days later, when the WSJ reported it, though the paper admits that the paucity of details surrounding what happened means there could be alternative explanations to the “failure to separate” narrative mentioned above. But given Musk's penchant for spin, this hardly registers as suspicious or surprising.



On his twitter feed, Musk suggested that the launch had been a success, posting a picture of the rocket’s launch and reentry. Though apparently its precious cargo is believed to have plunged into the Ocean and has not yet been recovered.

Northrop Grumman’s comms department didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment, and the company has yet to respond to the allegations.  Iridium executive Desch later told Bloomberg  in a message that he didn’t know for sure what led to the disappearance but was speculating that a dispenser failed to release the satellite, which he said would have been Northrop Grumman’s responsibility.

In summary, Desch’s tacitly admits that his conclusion is based, at least in part, on speculation. Given the federal government’s silence thus far, it’s likely an official explanation for the failure will never be released, despite the incredible waste of taxpayer money that this failure represents.


eclectic syncretist null Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:41 Permalink

A guy who burns coal to generate electricity to power vehicles, and then promulgates the lie that what he is doing reduces pollution. That's Elon Musk, a glorified used car salesman.

Personally, I don't care if his business pollutes or not, I can always choose not to buy his product, but what irks me are the big lies he is conning people with.

In reply to by null

JimmyJones The Iconoclast Fri, 01/12/2018 - 10:34 Permalink

IT wasn't his fault, it was a classified project, the failure is a disinformation campaign.  BTW there is another classified launch scheduled for tomorrow (was for today but got moved because of weather).  They are not using space X for this launch.  Lots of countries sending up lots of equipment at a very fast pace.  Whats going on?

In reply to by The Iconoclast

The Alarmist D503 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 12:31 Permalink

You're peddling your own fiction ... ULA, which includes LockMart, has had a number of failures, including some that were declared to be successes anyway.  I witnessed the launch and booster recovery; it is real and remarkable technology, albeit still prone to teething pains.

In reply to by D503

Miner D503 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:49 Permalink

>> Know who has a perfect launch record? Lockheed Martin.

Are you certain of this fact?  The Titan 4's had three failures and the Titan 401B had 1.  SpaceX's failures have been the crs-7 and amos-6 missions, not counting Zuma which may or may not have been a failure. (We'll know in 50 years when it's declassified).


Your inability to google does not make something true.

In reply to by D503

Portuguese Rev… 44_shooter Fri, 01/12/2018 - 10:12 Permalink

Actually it has been circulating around the web that the fault lies with the payload adapter provided by Northrop Grumman.

Rocket worked as intended but separation didn't occur due to a problem with the payload adapter ring which was made and supplied by the payload manufacturer.

So even though I dislike Musk and his ventures, this time it's the MIC's fault (or not, if this whole story is a smokescreen to make someone think the launch was unsuccessful).

In reply to by 44_shooter

wmbz Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:34 Permalink

"Wasn't Elon's Fault"

Well that comes as no surprise at all.

Because Musky's one of those guys who is never at fault. It is always someone else's, and when Tesla goes belly up, it will be Trumps fault for not bailing them out!

eclectic syncretist wmbz Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:50 Permalink

Why doesn't he go up in the first SpaceX rocket to send a man into space, scheduled for later this year? That would seem like a huge marketing coup for the company. 

But then we know why he won't do it, don't we?…

Oops, looks like they might not make it in 2018 either. Delays, delays.…

In reply to by wmbz

null Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:35 Permalink

Aw, maybe NG needs to claw back some CGI type of cash if they are running a shoe-string budget ... and definitely find better “transport” vendors.

MusicIsYou Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:51 Permalink

Well that is the type of thinking today. Even if something or someone fails it was still a success. Elites are getting themselves into that mindset so that when the entire system fails as it surely will it won't be their fault.

Davidduke2000 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:52 Permalink

the story is that the rocket did not go high enough, apparently the government did not give the exact weight  because they added a module the last minute.

The rocket need an extra 40 seconds to separate from the cargo capsule to put in in orbit and it did not happen, it fell back to earth.

I am waiting for the Russian to tell us exactly what really happened , they tracked the rocket from the first second it lifted.

Verniercaliper Fri, 01/12/2018 - 09:02 Permalink

A very strange story with a clear agenda to smear Musk. Musk is the CEO of SpaceX, not a rocket scientist. It's a matter of record that Northrop Grumman built and was responsible for payload separation, so if it didn't separate, why is SpaceX to blame here? Northrop Grumman was the customer, buying launch services from SpaceX. At this point, all evidence suggests that SpaceX did the job, delivering the customer's satellite into orbit. After that, it was the customer's issue. If Tyler doesn't like Elon Musk, just say so, rather than smearing SpaceX when there's a lot of evidence to suggest they did their job.