Pentagon: Ask SpaceX about Zuma. SpaceX: That's not our story to tell

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Secret Satellite Failure Probed by Congress

At Pad 39A, where Saturn V rockets and space shuttles launched, the first SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy rocket is standing tall on the pad, where the commercial company's team was scheduled to perform a "static fire" test Thursday.

Adding to the mystery, the satellite, categorized as United States of America 280, was still listed as a payload on orbit by the US space surveillance system as of Tuesday afternoon, said Laura Grego, a Caltech-trained physicist who is a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A day after White's statement, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, was asked about Zuma. The flight seemed to go off without a hitch, although we weren't given full access to video throughout the entirety of the flight or detailed telemetry data considering that this was a classified mission for the U.S. Military.

Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false.

"I would have to refer you to SpaceX, who conducted the launch", White told Bloomberg News reporter Tony Capaccio at a Pentagon briefing.

SpaceX cut off its launch broadcast after confirming that the rocket's nose cone - the cause of a delay to a planned November launch - had separated a few minutes after the 8 p.m. ET blastoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

However, SpaceX never officially confirmed the success of the mission.

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, said it was for the USA government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details. If true, the spacecraft and rocket likely fell into the Indian Ocean, where the Falcon 9 second stage was to re-enter after releasing Zuma in orbit.

But numerous news reports, citing unnamed government sources, said the satellite apparently re-entered Earth's atmosphere after failing to deploy from the Falcon 9's second stage. "We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks". However, if the Zuma failed to separate from the upper stage as multiple reports suggest, how does at least part of the blame not lay with SpaceX? Shotwell said in her Tuesday statement that the company "does not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule" at the end of the month since the data reviewed so far "indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed".

That includes the debut launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center.

The secret satellite, called Zuma, was built for the US government, although it is unclear which part of it.

An article in Wired said that Northrop Grumman provided the adapter to mate Zuma to the Falcon 9.

Big questions remain unanswered as officials remained tight-lipped about a billion-dollar satellite that could be somewhere in orbit - or crashed into the sea.

If the separation system was to blame for Zuma's rumored demise, the malfunction could have been under the responsibility of Northrop Grumman, not SpaceX.

White insisted that the "classified nature of all of this" made it impossible for her to respond to any queries.

SpaceX launches Zuma from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 7.

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