Pentagon mum on fate of secret satellite

The mystery surrounding the fate of a secret military satellite deepened Thursday when the Pentagon refused to answer even simple questions about whether the mission to launch it had gone awry.

On Sunday, private space firm SpaceX blasted a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying the secret government , known as Zuma.

US media this week reported that the billion-dollar payload did not make it into orbit and was presumed to have been lost.

SpaceX said Tuesday that the rocket worked fine, but its statement left open the possibility that something could have gone wrong after the launch.

When asked at a press briefing if the Pentagon considered the launch a success or a failure, two officials declined to provide any information whatsoever because of the classified nature of the mission.

"I would have to refer you to SpaceX, who conducted the launch," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

When pushed on the matter, fellow spokesman Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said: "I'm done. We're not going to be able to give you any more information."

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, has said it was for the US government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force.

The CEO of SpaceX is Elon Musk, the South African-born inventor and entrepreneur who is also behind electric car-maker Tesla.

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Citation: Pentagon mum on fate of secret satellite (2018, January 11) retrieved 19 October 2019 from
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Jan 11, 2018
If there are no indications of any of the launch vehicle's mechanisms malfunctioning, then on what basis are we to be assured that the satellite was not deployed into orbit?

The DOD declines to comment, so where does the claim of failure originate?

Sounds like the venerable "Okey-Doke" has been deployed, instead.

Jan 11, 2018
"Reports emerged Monday morning that something was amiss. The Wall Street Journal said congressional staffers were told the potentially multibillion-dollar launch was ultimately a failure. The newspaper referred to the event as "a total loss."

-WSJ, unnamed leakers... fake news. Clickbait or die.

Jan 11, 2018
"For secret satellites, they ( don't give us the orbit path, but they do make a catalogue entry," Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard and spaceflight expert, tells The Verge. "It gets a catalogue number and a national designation. And the fact that an entry is there should imply that a payload got into orbit and completed at least one orbit around the Earth." On top of that, there is a reported sighting of the Falcon 9's upper stage re-entering Earth's atmosphere, at about the time it should have following a successful launch.

Jan 11, 2018
Wait... I thought the 2nd stage was supposed to self land, as well...
Anyway... just add it to the trillions already reported missing...

Jan 12, 2018
Wait... I thought the 2nd stage was supposed to self land, as well
Not yet. Look it up.

No one's considering that perhaps it was only supposed to orbit once.

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