Iridium sticks up for SpaceX, blames Northrop in satellite loss

14 January, 2018, 00:11 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • SpaceX's three-core 27-engine Falcon Heavy launch vehicle sits on pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in December 2017

Ground crews took steps this week to prepare for next Falcon 9 launch, set for no earlier than January 30 with a telecom satellite for SES and the Luxembourg government, as SpaceX officials stressed their rocket was not to blame for the rumored loss of a mysterious US government payload after liftoff Sunday.

SpaceX's resolve and relentless drive was unchanged by the mystery surrounding Zuma (which included the possibility that nothing went wrong, and the satellite was, indeed, on orbit).

"Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule", said Shotwell.

An article in Wired said that Northrop Grumman provided the adapter to mate Zuma to the Falcon 9.

SpaceX is slated to demonstrate the maiden flight of Falcon Heavy, a larger and more powerful rocket, later this month.

Last year was a banner year for SpaceX, with 18 launches.

That would explain SpaceX's account of a flawless launch, while also squaring with the satellite is a total loss. The Falcon 9 won US Air Force certification for national-security space missions in May 2015, breaking a lock long-held by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

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Shotwell's statement emailed to reporters was an unusual one for SpaceX, which rarely comments on planned Falcon 9 flights before the week of launch.

The maker of the billion-dollar Zuma spy satellite, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, refused to comment on the plight of its missing satellite.

"If we're talking about expanding exploration, it will be good to have more capabilities", said Olga Bannova, research associate professor and director of the space architecture graduate program at the University of Houston's college of engineering.

Under mounting pressure from SpaceX, ULA's CEO Tory Bruno vowed to "literally transform" the company to compete - and he also continued to champion ULA's track record of successful launches of more than 100 in a row. The attachment fixture is normally included in the launch service purchased by the payload's owner.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who previous flew into space in the 1980s aboard Columbia as a payload specialist, sided with SpaceX, stating, "The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs". There is no on-the-record confirmation of the success or failure of the mission.

On the other hand, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), was not as lenient on SpaceX.

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