Technology SpaceX kicks off busy 2018 with launch of mysterious payload
SpaceX set to launch mysterious Zuma payload tomorrow night
Tomorrow night, SpaceX will launch perhaps its most secretive payload yet: a classified government satellite built by defense contractor Northrop Grumman. The Zuma mission only became public in October, when NASASpaceflight.com reported on documents that SpaceX had filed with the Federal Communications Commission, requesting authorization for a mysterious “Mission 1390.” A few days later, several news outlets confirmed that Zuma would launch a Northrop Grumman-made payload. The contractor had been assigned by the US government to find a rocket for the launch, and Northrop Grumman ultimately picked the Falcon 9.
SpaceX poised to launch secretive Zuma mission
SpaceX is poised to launch on Thursday a secretive payload known as Zuma for the U.S. government.The launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sometime between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Running a month and a half late because of payload fairing issues and subsequent rescheduling, the booster's nine first-stage engines ignited with a rush of flame at 8 p.m. EST (GMT-5). After a final round of computer checks, the 129-foot-tall rocket was released from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
It was the first of up to 30 or soplanned for 2018 following a record 18-launch year in 2017.
Climbing away atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust and a brilliant jet of exhaust, the Falcon 9 put on a spectacular show for area residents and tourists, visible for miles around as it arced away to the northeast and faded from view over the Atlantic Ocean.
As usual with classified missions, no details were revealed about the satellite's intended orbit or purpose. But SpaceX did provide coverage of the early moments of the flight, including the successful return to Earth of the Falcon 9's first stage about eight minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch has been pushed to next year
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has been gearing up for its inaugural launch for quite some time, but multiple delays keep pushing that event later and later. In an email to Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said, "We wanted to fly Heavy this year. We should be able to static fire this year and fly a couple of weeks right after that." The static fire test will be the first time that all of Heavy's 27 Merlin engines will be fired at once. And if all goes well there, Falcon Heavy should be ready for launch within the first few weeks of 2018.
Putting on an increasingly familiar spectacle, the booster flipped around moments after separating from the Falcon 9's second stage, fired up three of its Merlin 1D engines to kill off forward velocity and started back toward the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The engines ignited again three-and-a-half minutes later to slow down even more before descent into the thick lower atmosphere, using titanium "grid fins" at the top of the booster to maintain the proper orientation.
Then, dropping tail first toward the Air Force station, a single engine ignited, four landing legs unfolded and the stage settled to an on-target touchdown near the center of Landing Zone 1 at the Air Force station. It was the company's 21st successful booster recovery in 26 attempts, its ninth at LZ-1.
SpaceX's Elon Musk to launch his own car into deep space
SpaceX confirmed Wednesday its CEO will blast his cherry red electric car off toward the Red Planet.Many wondered if Musk was joking last week when he tweeted his plans for the Falcon Heavy's inaugural payload to be his "midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity," the classic song by the late David Bowie.
The Falcon 9's second stage presumably was still firing at that point, but no details were provided and it's not known when the Zuma satellite was released to fly on its own.
Built byfor an unidentified government agency, Zuma popped up on SpaceX's launch schedule last October, two weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration received an application for launch. Satellite launches are typically scheduled many months in advance and the agencies responsible for classified payloads are usually identified.
But Zuma's owner, its purpose and capabilities remain a mystery. Spaceflight Now reported earlier that the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates numerous spy satellites, is not involved with the mission.
The only clue came with the Falcon 9's first stage landing. Satellites bound for the high orbits used by communications stations and electronic eavesdropping satellites typically would not leave a Falcon 9 with enough left-over propellant to attempt a return to Florida.
SpaceX delivery delayed a day; 1st reused rocket for NASA
SpaceX has delayed its latest grocery run for the International Space Station for at least a day. The company now aims to launch its first recycled rocket for NASA on Wednesday. The unmanned Falcon originally flew in June. The Dragon capsule, meanwhile, made a space station shipment in 2015.This will be the first launch in more than a year from this Florida pad, the scene of a rocket explosion in 2016. SpaceX says it needs more time for checks. Liftoff time is 11:24 a.m.As before, SpaceX will attempt to land the first-stage booster back at Cape Canaveral.
A world-wide network of amateur satellite trackers will be on the lookout in the coming days and weeks in hopes of detecting the spacecraft and determining the details of its orbit.
In any case, with Zuma safely way, SpaceX engineers will turn their attention to a flurry of upcoming flights, including the maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket since NASA's Saturn 5 and the space shuttle.
The first, made up of three Falcon 9 core stages and a single upper stage, will be erected atop historic pad 39A at the nearby Kennedy Space Center next week for a main engine test firing. All 27 engines will be ignited for several seconds to make sure the propulsion system is ready for flight.
The Heavy's long-awaited launch is expected before the end of the month. In roughly that same period, SpaceX plans to launch an SES-Luxembourg military communications satellite and a Spanish Earth-observation station, both from pad 40.
SpaceX's first internet satellites are set to launch Sunday .
Elon Musk's rocket company has been working on getting satellite broadband off the ground for years. Now the Falcon 9 is set to launch the first test.More than three years ago we learned Elon Musk and his rocket company were working on developing satellites to provide low-cost internet access around the world. The first pair of demonstration satellites for the company's Starlink service will finally be launched into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 on Sunday, according to correspondence between the company and the Federal Communications Commission.
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