Secret Spy Satellite….
Gets launched and ‘reportily’ has a problem?
Then comes down?
The people who sent the payload up say it did NOT come down…
Is there something fishy going on?
Some space juckies think so….
Of this there is no doubt: At 8 p.m. on Jan. 7, aFalcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral AFS carrying a classified U.S. government payload code-named Zuma. After that, things get murky.
A pilot flying over East Africa snapped pictures of the rocket’s upper stage depressurizing and venting propellant after a planned deorbit burn about 2 hr. 15 min. after launch, Marco Langbroek, a Dutch scientist and amateur satellite tracker, noted on SeeSat-L, an internet mailing list for visual satellite observers. That would suggest that Zuma might be in a 900-1,000-km-high (560-620-mi.) orbit inclined 50 deg. north and south of the equator.
But media reports, citing anonymous intelligence and industry sources, say the spacecraft was still attached to the second stage when it reentered the atmosphere and splashed down in the southern Indian Ocean.
SpaceX, which curtailed launch commentary after payload fairing separation, lifted its mission communications blackout on Jan. 9 to issue a terse statement: “For clarity, after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell.
“If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible,” she said. “Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule.”
The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman, which built the satellite for an undisclosed government customer, refused to comment. The National Reconnaissance Office says Zuma is not its mission….
Industry experts suggest Zuma’s payload adapter, reportedly built by Northrop Grumman, failed. But not everyone is convinced. “Satellites have been known to fail spectacularly, . . . but I suspect that Zuma is alive and well,” says SeeSat-L administrator and longtime satellite hunter Ted Molczan….