On January 7 at 8 pm EST, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It is the secret Zuma Mission for the U.S. government, featuring a successful execution in its landing.
In 2 minutes and 19 seconds of the flight, two booster stages separated, with the first stage returning to Landing Zone 1, a facility of SpaceX at Cape Canaveral. The second stage mysteriously carrying the Zuma went on its way in LEO (Low Earth Orbit). The first stage ‘aced’ its landing came about 8 minutes after take-off.
This was SpaceX’s 21st successful touchdown of the first stage. 9 of the lot were on Zone 1, and the other 12 were on “autonomous spaceport drone-ships” stationed in the ocean. Two of these drone ships remain uncrewed and named ‘Of Course I Still Love You and ‘Just Read the Instructions.’
Elon Musk said these SpaceX efforts with fully reusable rockets for development are to achieve low-cost spaceflight. Five of the landed boosters were re-flown, along with two Dragon cargo capsules in resupply runs to the ISS. Although, last night’s Falcon 9 was brand new.
As for the secret Zuma mission, no report is revealed this far on the payload contents, and neither even probabilities. It is known that aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman received the Zuma payload atop SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket on behalf of the American government. That does not give us any lead on its operations and ambitions.
The LEO part doesn’t clear anything either, as the range of altitude hosts numerous spacecraft. Only that amateur satellites trackers will have next weeks busy working on the mystery is our next hope to receive further details.
Anticipations suggest that it could be a national-security mission, as SpaceX already has recorded of launching a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May 2017 and of the Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane last September.