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article imageSpaceX rocket to put mysterious payload into orbit November 16

By Ken Hanly     Nov 15, 2017 in Technology
Hawthorne - Space Exploration Technologies Corp or SpaceX is set to launch its most secretive payload yet, a classified government satellite built by defense contractor Northrop Grumman.
Zuma the mystery mission
The mission is codenamed Zuma but we do not know what it is for or even who it is for.
No government agency has claimed responsibility for the mission nor is it clear what kind of spacecraft is being launched. All that is known is that it will go into low earth orbit and is set to be launched on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Florida on Thursday night.
The mission became public only in October when NASASpaceflight.com reported on documents that SpaceX filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The papers requested authorization for "Mission 1390". Following upon this, several news outlets also confirmed that Zuma would launch a Northrop Grumman manufactured payload.
Northrop Grumman had been asked by the US government to find a rocket that could launch the payload. The company picked the Falcon 9 of Space X.
Lon Rains, the communications director for Northrop Grumman's Space Systems Division claimed that the company had been careful to choose the most affordable and lowest risk option for Zuma. However, he released no further information on the spacecraft.
SpaceX has launched other classified payloads
SpaceX received certification in 2015 to begin launching military satellites and has already launched two other classified payloads. It is scheduled to launch even more over the next several years.
Previous customers such as the US Air Force have all been known.
The National Reconnaissance Office which usually owns up to the fact that it is launching a spy spacecraft denies that it has anything to do with Zuma.
The Falcon 9 has a long history of successful flights
Wikipedia describes the Falcon 9 as follows: "Falcon 9 is an EELV-class medium-lift vehicle capable of delivering up to 22,800 kilograms (50,265 lb) to orbit, and is intended to compete with the Delta IV and the Atlas V rockets, as well as other launch providers around the world. It has nine Merlin engines in its first stage. "
An early version of the Falcon 9 reached orbit on its first attempt back in June of 2010.
On its third flight in May of 2012 it was the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
The rocket was upgraded both in 2013 and 2015 to the current Full Thrust version.
Falcon 9 vehicles have flown 30 successful missions as well as two failures.
Falcon 9 will attempt to land at Cape Canaveral
The Falcon 9 is designed to return from orbit, land, and be used again.
Zuma will be the 17th mission SpaceX has carried out just this year. This is the most the company has carried out in a single year and twice the number it performed in 2016.
If the landing is successful it will be the 20th landing that SpaceX has carried out so far.
Launch was postponed from tonight to tomorrow
The launch was originally to be from NASA's Kennedy Space Center from 8 to 10 PM eastern time tonight but has been postponed until the same time tomorrow.
Space X said in a statement: “Both Falcon 9 and the payload remain healthy. Teams will use the extra day to conduct some additional mission assurance work in advance of launch.”
SpaceX's live coverage of the takeoff usually starts about 15 minutes prior to takeoff. However given the secrecy of the event it is not clear how much of the deployment the public will be allowed to view.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX)
SpaceX was founded back in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk who is also associated with Tesla the EV company. Musk intends to reduce the costs of space transportation and ultimately enable the colonization of Mars.
In December 2015 the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket landed at Cape Canaveral after a successful launch into orbit, the first time this was ever achieved, and just one of a number of firsts the company has achieved. The company appears poised to win many more government contracts in the future.
SpaceX headquarters are in Hawthorne California
Update November 17
Launch did not take place. No new date set for launch but should be soon.
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