SpaceX launches secretive Zuma spacecraft

SpaceX kicked off the new year with a mystery-shrouded mission to deliver a government spacecraft, called Zuma, into ...

Posted: Jan 8, 2018 5:42 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2018 5:42 PM

SpaceX kicked off the new year with a mystery-shrouded mission to deliver a government spacecraft, called Zuma, into orbit.

After more than a month of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket vaulted toward the skies at 8 p.m. ET Sunday with the secretive payload. It launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The space exploration firm, which is headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, initially scheduled the Zuma mission last November.

SpaceX gave a couple reasons for the schedule changes. At one point, SpaceX said it delayed the mission for "fairing testing." The fairing is the very top portion of the rocket that houses the payload. "Extreme weather" also slowed down the company's launch preparations.

Last week, SpaceX finally declared that both the rocket and the payload were "healthy" and ready for launch.

Related: Your guide to commercial space travel in 2018

On Sunday, Zuma was delivered to low-Earth orbit, which is typically defined as any orbital path less than about 1,200 miles above the Earth's surface, according to NASA. Zuma's precise destination was not disclosed.

That was not the only thing kept secret about Zuma.

The spacecraft was built for the U.S. government, and it's not unusual for the government to keep information about sensitive payloads under wraps. Typically these payloads involve a military concern, such as national security, defense or surveillance.

When asked about the project in November, Northrop Grumman -- the Virginia-based aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft -- declined to give any details about the spacecraft or reveal which arm of the government funded it.

"The U.S. Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission," the company said in a statement. "Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma."

The company declined further comment Sunday.

Because of Zuma's secrecy, SpaceX didn't live stream the entire mission. But there was still plenty for SpaceX to show off after launch.

Related: SpaceX launch leaves ghostly glowing trail in the sky

The company executed its signature move: guiding the first-stage rocket booster back to Earth for a safe landing.

Just over two minutes after liftoff Sunday, the first-stage booster separated from the second stage and fired up its engines. The blaze allowed the rocket to safely cut back through the Earth's atmosphere and land on a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX lands boosters so they can be reused in future missions. It's meant to help make spaceflight cheaper.

The Zuma launch kicked off what SpaceX hopes will be an exciting year.

The company completed a record-setting 18 launches last year, and SpaceX plans to do even more this year, according to spokesman James Gleeson.

Later this month, the company plans to debut its latest invention: the Falcon Heavy. The monstrous rocket will have three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

An exact date for the inaugural launch has not been set, but Musk wrote on Instagram last week that SpaceX is looking to do it before the end of the month.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 448268

Reported Deaths: 6013
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin931011480
Ramsey40016739
Dakota33072340
Anoka30999364
Washington20164228
Stearns17871187
St. Louis13690241
Scott1195496
Wright11614104
Olmsted1048475
Sherburne821365
Carver694836
Clay653280
Rice606868
Kandiyohi554371
Blue Earth541033
Crow Wing482774
Otter Tail457167
Chisago452732
Benton420186
Winona389646
Douglas374166
Nobles370846
Mower365529
Goodhue347958
Polk328658
McLeod325345
Morrison311744
Beltrami310347
Lyon302236
Becker284939
Itasca284543
Isanti282841
Carlton280043
Steele27379
Pine266713
Freeborn245321
Todd231730
Nicollet224636
Brown215134
Mille Lacs214246
Le Sueur210015
Cass207623
Meeker199733
Waseca189316
Wabasha17083
Martin170026
Roseau165416
Hubbard149338
Redwood139727
Renville137539
Houston135913
Dodge13474
Chippewa131332
Cottonwood127218
Fillmore12355
Wadena120116
Rock110212
Sibley10857
Aitkin108433
Watonwan10668
Faribault105916
Pennington99215
Kanabec97818
Pipestone94423
Yellow Medicine93714
Murray8815
Jackson85610
Swift83418
Pope7385
Marshall70215
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63715
Wilkin6259
Koochiching59610
Lincoln4841
Big Stone4573
Unassigned43768
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3174
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 305606

Reported Deaths: 4278
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45754449
Linn17795275
Scott15444163
Black Hawk13773236
Woodbury13016175
Johnson1211749
Dubuque11387150
Pottawattamie8992112
Dallas888671
Story869434
Webster469771
Cerro Gordo466768
Sioux455157
Clinton450361
Warren443938
Marshall427761
Buena Vista393429
Muscatine390477
Des Moines381841
Plymouth350368
Wapello344198
Jasper321959
Lee317130
Marion304952
Jones271349
Henry264330
Carroll255434
Bremer245048
Crawford231022
Boone218417
Washington217632
Benton209444
Mahaska193136
Jackson192031
Tama187757
Dickinson186026
Delaware173736
Kossuth173644
Clay168820
Wright164824
Fayette162322
Hamilton160029
Buchanan159923
Winneshiek155719
Harrison155162
Hardin154729
Cedar153219
Clayton151448
Butler148224
Page144715
Floyd139636
Cherokee139027
Mills136416
Lyon135332
Poweshiek132724
Hancock130224
Allamakee127928
Iowa125422
Calhoun12279
Grundy121226
Jefferson120724
Madison12039
Winnebago119429
Mitchell116234
Louisa115030
Cass113341
Chickasaw111612
Sac111215
Emmet110831
Appanoose110538
Union108822
Humboldt105519
Guthrie103024
Shelby102926
Franklin102418
Unassigned9310
Palo Alto9079
Montgomery85622
Keokuk85026
Howard84219
Monroe81218
Clarke7957
Pocahontas77611
Ida74630
Greene6927
Davis69121
Adair68820
Lucas6508
Monona64016
Osceola6409
Worth6113
Taylor5949
Fremont5126
Van Buren49712
Decatur4894
Ringgold4389
Audubon4158
Wayne41421
Adams2963
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: -1°
Feels Like: 26°
Mason City
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 1°
Feels Like: 27°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 0°
Feels Like: 28°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: -1°
Feels Like: 29°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 1°
Feels Like: 26°
A roller coaster of temperatures
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Rochester Terminates Lease for Legends Bar & Grill

Image

City council terminates Legends lease, moves forward with demolition plans

Image

First round of vaccine completed at Good Shepard

Image

City Council discusses future of Legends property

Image

Catholic Presidency

Image

Bringing Urban Agriculture To DMC

Image

First Facility In Mower County To Receive Vaccine

Image

Inauguration Day In Class

Image

Iowa Lawmakers working together

Image

Olmsted County Covid Relief Funds

Community Events