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SpaceX launches secretive satellite codenamed 'Zuma'

13 Enero 2018

However, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters - citing officials who spoke on condition of anonymity - reported the satellite is presumed "to be a total loss".

Not much is known about the Falcon 9 Zuma mission, which will blast off from launchpad 40. The central rocket will carry on firing, and then return for landing on the Atlantic-based SpaceX drone barge, dubbed "Of course I still love you".

Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense contractor reportedly behind the satellite, told BuzzFeed News the mission was classified and it could not comment. The details about the nature of spacecraft were not disclosed making it a secret mission.

In this image made with a long exposure the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as seen from in Viera, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018.

SpaceX is now looking towards its next challenge, launching the Falcon Heavy, its largest rocket to date.

Sunday's launch extended SpaceX's streak of successful missions to 19 in a row, dating back to a rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral in 2016 that destroyed an Israeli-owned commercial communications satellite. The two-hour launch window opens at 8pm ET.

Returning to Zuma's clandestine aspect, SpaceX has done classified launches for the US Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office before, but this is the first time the goal and the name of the government entity behind the spacecraft launched have remained completely unknown. At that time, the launch director confirmed that the propellant loading had begun.

To complicate matters, there are conflicting reports that Zuma did actually make it to orbit. As it soared higher, a thinning atmosphere put less pressure on the rocket.

One of the few scraps of information currently available has revealed Zuma was supposed to enter into a low orbit around Earth. Fifteen seconds later, SpaceX's launch director gave the go-ahead for launch.

The company has yet to set a date for its inaugural launch.

During the launch, SpaceX didn't signal any problems with the fairing or associated hardware.

Less than 10 minutes after launch, SpaceX landed its first-stage booster back on land at the Air Force station. This is SpaceX's third classified mission, and arguably its most secretive flight for the US military.

The assumption is that the Zuma payload is a national security satellite, but the secrecy surrounding it is certainly intriguing. The company has said it plans to launch roughly 30 missions in 2018 after completing a record 18 last year.

January is shaping up to be a busy month on Florida's Space Coast.

SpaceX launches secretive satellite codenamed 'Zuma'