Mystery surrounds fate of secret satellite slung by SpaceX
Sources say USA 'lost' absolutely-classified top-secret bird? You Musk be kidding
SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have refused to address rumors that all may not be well with the classified "Zuma" satellite launched on Monday.
Speculation about the fate of the satellite arose after the editor of Space Intel Report, Peter de Selding, noticed that after the expected satellite deployment, there was no word from SpaceX on Zuma's telemetry or orbital parameters.
Zuma satellite from @northropgrumman may be dead in orbit after separation from @SpaceX Falcon 9, sources say. Info blackout renders any conclusion - launcher issue? Satellite-only issue? -- impossible to draw. pic.twitter.com/KggCGNC5Si— Peter B. de Selding (@pbdes) January 8, 2018
de Selding noted that the 45th Space Wing had congratulated SpaceX on the successful launch, but has been silent since:
Congratulations Sharks & @SpaceX! What an incredible way to start off 2018 w/the world's 1st successful launch and landing of this year!— 45th Space Wing (@45thSpaceWing) January 8, 2018
45th sometimes describes 'successful launch' in ways that don't mean to imply satellite in-orbit health post separation. Easiest way to kill rumors is to confirm telemetry/orbital parameters. We don't have that. https://t.co/p9IVK5npZq— Peter B. de Selding (@pbdes) January 8, 2018
Popular Mechanics also noted speculation about another explanation, a “communications blackout” with the satellite (that is, the satellite's fine but the spooks aren't saying so).
Insiders have told Dow Jones that unnamed lawmakers have been briefed about the “apparent destruction” of Zuma, saying they were told it crashed back to Earth.
The Falcon 9 launcher returned to Earth successfully after the company's first mission for 2018. ®