SpaceX Aims to Test Fire Falcon Heavy This Week

Is Zuma Lost? SpaceX Said Its Rocket Did Everything Right

The massive Falcon Heavy, which has already been staged on a Cape Canaveral launchpad, stands 230 feet tall and consists of three Falcon 9 first-stage cores.

The satellite launched January 7 on the back of a rocket launched by SpaceX, the private space exploration company formed by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

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

"We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", a representative for the company said. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible. Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter. Compromising relationships with the military would carry significant consequences: Defense contract launches were estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030 in a 2014 government report.

The company has said it plans about 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 previous year.

But on Tuesday, Northrop Grumman spokesperson Lon Rains declined to answer questions about the mission, including the failure or success of its launch, cost, exact government customer, and more. 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. Commentary during a webcast of the launch appeared to confirm that the fairings housing the payload were successfully deployed.

Unnamed government officials told Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal that the satellite, built by Northrop Grumman under the code-name "Zuma," failed to reach orbit and crashed back into the atmosphere. Around 24 hours after the launch, Aerospace reporters Eric Berger at Ars Technica and Peter B.de Selding at SpaceNews.com began reporting that the payload might be lost.

SpaceX said a review of the data revealed a successful launch and there's no reason to suspect the Falcon 9 performed otherwise. The fact that SpaceX is proceeding with its launch plans, including an imminent static fire test in preparation for the upcoming first launch of the new Falcon Heavy rocket, demonstrates that SpaceX is convinced all is well technically. The webcast then concluded. All that is known about it publicly is that it was built by Northrop Grumman for a US government customer, but not which agency ordered it.

SpaceX - which was founded and led by Musk, who also heads the electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc - is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month. Additionally, a SpaceX rocket carrying supply missions to the International Space Station for NASA exploded in 2015.

For years, the company has been in a heated battle with ULA over lucrative contracts to launch national security payloads, long seen by Musk as a key source of revenue. In 2014, SpaceX sued the Air Force arguing that it should be able to compete for the contracts.

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