Science

SpaceX Delays ‘Secret Zuma’ Launch Until Thursday

SpaceX launch of a secret Zuma mission for the U.S. government was planned to be today between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. However, according to a statement that was released early this morning, SpaceX’s planned launch is pushed forward to Thursday night.

SpaceX Launch
Image Credit: SpaceX

“SpaceX is now targeting Thursday, Nov. 16, for the launch of the Zuma mission,” SpaceX representatives revealed in the statement. “Both Falcon 9 and the payload remain healthy; teams will use the extra day to conduct some additional mission assurance work in advance of launch.”

The time-of-day for the launch hasn’t changed; the time window opens on Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST. The details behind the government’s Zuma mission is a strict secret, with only a few details revealed about the mystery payload on the Falcon 9.

“The Zuma payload is a restricted payload,” said Lon Rains, communications director for Northrop Grumman’s space system division, to Space.com in a statement. “It will be launched into low-Earth orbit.”

SpaceX representatives haven’t revealed any details on the exact orbital destination of Zuma, neither have they revealed the payload’s specifications or use. SpaceX is anticipated to land the first stage of Zuma’s Falcon 9 rocket back on Earth less than 10 minutes after it lifts off at the company’s Landing Zone 1, which is located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s also close to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Zuma launch on the Falcon 9 is the most cost-effective and low-risk option for the mission, Rains told Space.com via e-mail.

“Northrop Grumman is proud to be part of the Zuma launch,” Rains said. “The event represents a cost-effective approach to space access for government missions. As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes that this is a monumental responsibility and has taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.”

The company launched the NROL-76 spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on May 1. Then, SpaceX launched the robotic X-37B space plane into orbit on Sept. 7. Zuma’s launch will be the third classified mission for SpaceX for the U.S. government in 2017. Tomorrow’s SpaceX launch will mark SpaceX’s 17th mission in 2017. All prior missions have been a success. Also, 13 of those missions have included Falcon 9 first stage booster landings, as part of SpaceX’s project to make reusable rockets and spacecraft in order to make spaceflight more budget-friendly.