On Tuesday morning, SpaceX launched an announcement from Gwynne Shotwell, the corporate president, which emphatically said that the corporate noticed nothing that indicated SpaceX was at fault:
For readability: after overview of all information so far, Falcon 9 did every part accurately on Sunday night time. If we or others discover in any other case primarily based on additional overview, we are going to report it instantly. Info revealed that’s opposite to this assertion is categorically false. Because of the categorized nature of the payload, no additional remark is feasible.
What does Northrop Grumman say occurred?
Northrop Grumman has publicly stated solely, “It is a categorized mission. We can not touch upon categorized missions.”
What’s the hypothesis?
“I can’t conclude something undoubtedly,” stated Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist on the Harvard-Smithsonian Heart for Astrophysics who avidly tracks the comings and goings of house objects. “We’re happening rumors and conflicting statements.”
Dr. McDowell notes that the satellite tv for pc seems to have made it to orbit — an entry for Zuma seems at Space-Track.org, a database of objects in orbit.
As well as, two hours, 15 minutes after launch, observers reported seeing one thing over East Africa that gave the impression to be the second stage of the Falcon 9 simply earlier than it dropped out of orbit. (Second levels of rockets are sometimes steered downward to fritter away within the environment in order that they don’t add to the junk circling Earth.)
“Which is about the fitting time for a de-orbit,” Dr. McDowell stated. But when Zuma had by no means separated from the second stage, it could have been additionally dragged to its demise.
SpaceX and Zuma’s operators probably knew that the satellite tv for pc was nonetheless connected to the rocket’s second stage, which might increase the query of why they didn’t delay the de-orbit and attempt to repair the issue.
Maybe there was no method to override the preprogrammed de-orbit burn, Dr. McDowell stated. Or the rocket didn’t move over sufficient radio dishes for a brand new command to be despatched. Alternatively, the malfunction could have broken the communications hardware.
Dr. McDowell stated it could be every week earlier than the projected orbit of Zuma would move over beginner satellite tv for pc watchers.
Is that this something like earlier SpaceX launch failures?
SpaceX has suffered two Falcon 9 failures. Throughout a launch for NASA of cargo headed to the Worldwide House Station in 2015, a strut throughout the second stage snapped, leading to the destruction of the rocket after it blasted off. Fifteen months later, throughout fueling for an engine take a look at on the launchpad, a failure inside a liquid oxygen tank led to an explosion and loss of a $200 million satellite.
The corporate recovered with 18 profitable launches in 2017.