USA spy satellite believed destroyed after failing to reach orbit

A SpaceX representative told Business Insider, "We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

A military satellite launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hasn't been spotted in orbit by the US Strategic Command, creating a mystery about the fate of the classified payload and doubts about whether the mission was a success.

"Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight", SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement released yesterday.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Corp., which was commissioned by the Defense Department to choose the launch contractor, said "we can not comment on classified missions", and army lieutenant colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon's spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX. Its secret USA government-sponsored payload, though, did not fare as well, according to sources. According to reporter Peter Selding, his sources say that the satellite might be dead and limply floating around the planet. When SpaceX has had mishaps in the past, it's grounded the company for months.

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This was SpaceX's third classified mission for the US government, a lucrative customer. "And that would put them as responsible on whether it separated from the second stage".

During a livestream of Sunday's launch, SpaceX said it got successful confirmation that the fairing - the clamshell-like covering for payloads at the tip of the rocket - did deploy.

While the landing was nearly ideal, the company did not go on to confirm that the mission was a success, at least officially, according to Ars Technica.

Elon Musk tweeted that when it does lift off, the company plans to land all three first stages back on Earth, with two cores returning to land and a third to a droneship out in the Atlantic.

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In 2015, SpaceX was certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch national security satellites. The company later said it had cleared the issue.

However, the key part connecting the Zuma payload to the rocket wasn't made by SpaceX.

"We have nothing to add to the satellite catalog at this time", Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the command, said in an email when asked if the new satellite was in orbit. Last year, SpaceX completed 18 launches.

According to Shotwell, data already reviewed has showed that "no design, operational or other changes are needed" that would impact further launches.

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Last March, a Falcon 9 was relaunched into space-the first time an orbital rocket was reused.