Launch leaves conspiracy theorists and tech watchers scratching their heads.
Elon Musk’s privatized space flight program is up and running, and has a full launch schedule to show for it. But this latest launch which carried a top-secret satellite payload for the US government has conspiracy theorists and tech watchers alike scratching their heads.
The Zuma mission, originally slated for last fall, supposedly carried a hush-hush spy satellite. Per its policy when launching government projects, SpaceX only live streamed the launch to a certain point, namely, the first stage separation. Frame-worthy photos of the launch appeared on the company’s official social media channels along with the stream up to its point, then cut off for the second stage separation.
Sometime after the end of the video, the satellite was gone. Numerous mainstream media reports have stated it fell back to Earth and either burned up or landed in the ocean. However, SpaceX has issued a veiled but contradictory statement, namely saying that everything it was contracted to do took place without error.
All fine with Falcon 9?
Further, there are no cancellations in SpaceX’s upcoming launch schedule, nor any delays. That’s certainly not typical for any space program, especially one that is privately owned but is looking forward to going public and taking on investors in the future. As history has shown, the loss of a single rocket has led to months if not years of delays.
According to George Dvorsky for Gizmodo, “So if this comment by SpaceX is true, that means its Falcon 9 did what it was supposed to do: that is, launch the rocket, perform the two-stage separation, and deploy the Zuma satellite into its intended orbit. And indeed… the incident has not prompted any launch delays or a review of the company’s launch systems.”
That’s not all. Another report explains that satellites are tracked by U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center, basically to keep the 4,000+ active and inactive orbiting satellites from smacking into each other. While Zuma is top secret and therefore does not display the information on its path or location, Strategic Command did increase the number of entries for satellites upon its launch.
SpaceX launched the satellite and its reusable first stage has been recovered, and an entry number for that payload has been initiated for the new undisclosed satellite. That is all that’s being shared, other than the statement that the satellite failed to deploy and is taking on seawater at this very moment.
The confusion surrounding the Zuma mission payload is certainly worthy of a sci-fi thriller, but it begs the question as to why so many contradictions for an already-highly classified satellite.