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 stages of the booster got 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’ it’s landing that 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 other 12 on “autonomous spaceport drone-ships” stationed in the ocean. There are two of these drone-ships remaining uncrewed and named as ‘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. 5 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.