A SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket suffered a complete loss of a highly secret military satellite, codename Zuma, following its launch on Sunday.
There will be a formal investigation into the events of Sunday evening but initial, although unconfirmed, reports suggest that the classified satellite failed to separate from the rocket’s upper stage. The lower (1st) stage of Elon Musk-backed SpaceX rocket was successfully returned to Earth in Florida following the launch.
The satellite payload, however, is said to have mostly burned up safely in the atmosphere with any remnants falling into the Atlantic. Its makers, Northrop Grumman, declined to comment.
SpaceX is due to launch the much more powerful ‘Falcon Heavy’ test flight later this month, and it is not yet known whether the problems will impact the planned launch date. But the launch is bound to be a setback. The US military have lost a satellite worth billions, and SpaceX is still contracted for cargo supply missions to the International Space Station and as part of NASA’s crew transport to the Space Station.