|SpaceX launch of mysterious Zuma mission postponed indefinitely |
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By Ken Hanly yesterday in Technology
Cape Canaveral - SpaceX on Thursday postponed again the launch of a secret government payload named Zuma. The mission is a mystery and no US agency has claimed responsibility for it.
The planned launch was described in a recent Digital Journal article.
Thursday launch called off just hours before take off
Just about a mere two hours before the launch window was to open on Thursday SpaceX said in a statement: "We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date." The fairing is the nose cone part of the rocket that protects the payload. Neither SpaceX or the Pentagon would clarify the nature of the mission. The maker of the payload the US defense contractor Northrup Grumman said only that it was for the US government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit. The company would not provide any other details.
SpaceX has launched other classified payloads
Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX founded by Elon Musk in 2002 has the goal of reducing space transportation costs. Musk is also the founder of Tesla the EV maker. SpaceX has many firsts including a rocket which can land after delivering its payload. Earlier this year, SpaceX launched a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. It also launched an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force. When SpaceX finally does liftoff with its payload the first stage portion of the Falcon9 rocket will attempt to return to earth and land near Cape Canaveral. If the landing is successful this will represent that 20th time SpaceX has successfully landed the cone to be reused saving money on costly rocket parts.
SpaceX concerned about possible payload fairing problems
Wikipedia describes the fairings as follows: A payload fairing is a nose cone used to protect a spacecraft (launch vehicle payload) against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during launch through an atmosphere... Outside the atmosphere the fairing is jettisoned, exposing the payload. ..
The standard payload fairing is typically a cone-cylinder combination, due to aerodynamic considerations; however specialized fairings are in use as well. The type of fairing which separates into two halves upon jettisoning is called a clam-shell fairing by way of analogy to the bifurcating shell of a clam.
The Zuma launch was postponed until SpaceX examined data from testing of the fairings. Failures of the fairings have caused problems with previous flights by other rockets. SpaceX had said on Thursday as mentioned earlier: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer." The fairings encapsulate the payloads and are designed to protect it during and after launch. When the launch does take place, the first stage is scheduled to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 about 8 minutes after liftoff. There is expected to be a loud sonic boom associated with the landing. However, there is no word when that will be. No doubt SpaceX is following the old adage: Better safe than sorry.
Read more: digitaljournal.com