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The Zuma Mission by Spacex: a Success or a Failure?

Oindrila Banerjee
Oindrila Banerjee
A English Literature student, love reading books, love literature and history, and enthusiastic about travelling. She likes to read random pieces of information and like watching films. She likes how refreshing it is to learn something new everyday. Her goal is to earn enough to take a trip round the globe.

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SpaceX started the year by launching a super-secret, allegedly ‘spy-satellite’, Zuma, into space on behalf of the US Government. The Zuma Mission, which had been delayed for reasons like ‘fairing testing’ and bad weather since last November, finally lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday, 7th January. But new reports have started surrounding the launch ever since.

The hearsay surrounding the SpaceX Zuma mission include reports of it getting lost in space; its malfunctioning after separating from the rocket; difficulty in separating from the upper stage of Falcon 9, the parent rocket, altogether; and of its having been burnt up by the atmosphere during the ascent. SpaceX, however, has denied all these stories, claiming that there is no problem with the Falcon 9 booster and that the satellite was successfully launched into space. In a statement issued by SpaceX on Tuesday, the company has claimed that Falcon 9 had not malfunctioned and that the launch was successful.

Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible – Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX

While Northrup Grumman, the manufacturer of the satellite, remains quiet about the tattle, statements made by a pilot flying just north of Khartoum at the time of the launch and observations made by the Joint Space Operations Centre of the US Department of Space seem to support SpaceX’s claim of a successful launch. Peter Horstink, the pilot of a 747-400 freighter, said in a mail sent to Dr. Langbroek

It started with a greenish light in the top of my front window. At first I thought it was a reflection from some light source behind me, but it turned out not to be – Peter Horstink

The Joint Space Operations Centre of the US Department of Space also logged a new payload entry soon after the Zuma launch. But the secretive nature of the Zuma mission has prevented the companies involved in the venture from making a clear statement, and hence, as of now, both the reports about the failure of the launch and the claims contradicting them remain unverified and unreliable.

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