Turns out this weekend’s SpaceX mission didn’t go off without a hitch, after all.
The secret U.S. government payload — believed to be a spy satellite — failed to reach orbit and fell back into the atmosphere, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing industry and government officials who commented anonymously on the classified mission. Citing those officials, the paper reported that the payload, code-named Zuma, apparently “didn’t separate as planned from the upper part of the rocket.”
The launch Sunday had appeared to go smoothly. SpaceX landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station afterward.
Speculation has been swirling all day about the fate of the mission.
The cost of the satellite is estimated to be in the billions. Northrup Grumman isn’t commenting on the outcome, citing the classified nature of the mission. SpaceX is saying only that “reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally,” or as expected.