SpaceX lofted a super-secret Zuma spacecraft for a U.S. supervision tonight (Jan. 8), successfully executing a idea that also featured nonetheless another alighting by a initial theatre of a company’s Falcon 9 rocket.
The Falcon 9 carried off during 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on Jan. 9) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, on Florida’s Space Coast.
The booster’s dual stages distant 2 mins and 19 seconds into flight. The second theatre continued carrying a puzzling Zuma to a end in low-Earth circuit (LEO), while a initial theatre began maneuvering a approach behind to terra firma for a touchdown during Landing Zone 1, a SpaceX trickery during Cape Canaveral. [How SpaceX Lands Falcon 9 Rockets]
The initial theatre aced that landing, a small reduction than 8 mins after holding off.
SpaceX now has 21 successful first-stage touchdowns underneath a belt, 9 of them during Landing Zone 1 and a other 12 on “autonomous spaceport droneships” stationed in a ocean. (SpaceX has dual of these uncrewed vessels, that are named “Just Read a Instructions” and “Of Course we Still Love You.”)
These landings are partial of SpaceX’s bid to rise entirely reusable rockets and booster — record that association owner and CEO Elon Musk has pronounced will condense a cost of spaceflight. To date, SpaceX has re-flown 5 of these landed boosters, as good as dual of a uncrewed Dragon load capsules, that make resupply runs to a International Space Station. (The Falcon 9 that carried off tonight was brand-new.)
But a categorical idea of tonight’s moody was removing Zuma aloft, so a booster can start going about a business. Just what that business might be is unclear; small has been suggested about a payload.
We do know that aerospace and invulnerability association Northrop Grumman procured Zuma’s launch atop a Falcon 9 for a U.S. supervision — but we don’t know that group will work a satellite, or if a idea is municipal or military.
Northrop Grumman did exhibit that Zuma is going to LEO, yet that information doesn’t tell us much; this operation of altitudes houses a accumulation of spacecraft, from reconnaissance, continue and communications satellites to a International Space Station. And we don’t know what Zuma’s accurate circuit is (though it’s a protected gamble that pledge satellite trackers will be operative tough over a entrance days and weeks to figure that out).
If Zuma is a national-security mission, it wouldn’t be a initial one that SpaceX has launched. Falcon 9s also launched a satellite for a National Reconnaissance Office in May 2017 and a Air Force’s robotic X-37B space craft this past September.
The Zuma idea was creatively ostensible to launch in mid-November, yet SpaceX stood down for a while to investigate information from payload-fairing exam achieved for another customer. (The cargo fairing is a protecting nose cone that encases a booster during launch.)