In a bit of news that I just have to write about, it appears, according to several news reports over the last 24 hours that the “Zuma” payload launched by SpaceX this past Sunday has been lost !
Of course, reports are conflicting – some sites are saying the launch was fine on SpaceX’s part, and that the payload was delivered properly, but other news sites are reporting a different story – that the payload, whatever it actually is, failed to separate from the Falcon 9 upper stage.
The question then becomes just who is responsible. You would think SpaceX in this one, right? Thing is, apparently the agency behind Zuma chose their own adapter for the payload. If this is the component which failed, then it means that it’s their responsibility and not that of SpaceX.
This is backed up by the fact that SpaceX claims the Falcon 9 performed nominally (as in, as expected) during the flight, but would you expect anything less?
This is a secret mission, of a payload that technically doesn’t exist. Their official policy is to not even comment on it, but still, they did say Falcon did its job.
Here’s what really gets at me though – Zuma was delayed a month from its original planned launch date back in November, due to apparently some kind of issue with the payload fairing which was detected in another customers fairing, or something to that effect – the wording is always odd on SpaceX stuff, and getting straight information is nearly impossible.
So, wait, what happened? Was the fairing always SpaceX’s and the adapter that mounted Zuma on the Falcon 9 Upper Stage provided by the people behind Zuma? Or.. did they change out the whole thing, or.. just what the hell actually went on with this payload?
The thing apparently got official orbital designations, however, this could be premature – these things do happen from time to time where something that fails to actually reach a stable orbit gets cataloged, but apparently the Falcon 9 stage was reported to have successfully done it’s normal post flight behaviors and de-orbited. Did it seriously do this with the payload attached, or did Zuma get released but somehow else not function?
The fact we are hearing this early that it stayed attached is intriguing, really. SpaceX saying the Falcon performed nominally, and that they are so strongly stressing this, still makes me wonder if they are trying to hide something – I wouldn’t put it past them, or any company. That being said, this seems unlikely, due to the adapter issue which has been brought up. Why? Why would it need such? Why would they choose such? It’s really the key element in this.
We may never know. Again, this is a government payload that officially doesn’t exist.
Really, really makes you wonder, though, doesn’t it?
Incidentally, of course you see plenty of SpaceX fans defending the company here. What else would you expect, honestly? I for one am sitting back, maybe having a chuckle, hoping at least some details come out soon. I want to know what happened, so I can know who to laugh at – either the makers of a possibly billion dollar spy satellite, or a launch company that cares more about landing rockets than actually getting payloads safely into orbit.
Please note that the above paragraph is a bit of a joke – it seems that didn’t carry over well when someone read this article recently. The comedy is that if the satellite makers messed up, they literally destroyed their own satellite. If SpaceX messed up, then the joke was that they didn’t put enough care into the launch. Again, it’s just a joke. Relax.