Report: Secret spy satellite believed lost after SpaceX launch

Wall Street Journal says satellite plummeted into atmosphere

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A secret satellite launched Sunday night by SpaceX from the Cape is presumed to be a total loss, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The satellite, codenamed Zuma, was aboard an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket, but it appears the satellite did not separate properly, never reached orbit and apparently plummeted back into the atmosphere, the report said.

The Wall Street Journal, citing industry and government officials, said lawmakers were briefed about the destruction of the secretive payload, possibly worth billions of dollars.

SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 rocket booster.

"For clarity: After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately," SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said. "Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible."

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said earlier this month that the company's Falcon Heavy rocket will launch sometime in January.  

"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," Shotwell said. "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. We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg government from SLC-40 in three weeks."

Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida, told News 6 on Tuesday that, if a possible mission failure was not SpaceX's fault, activity on the Space Coast will not slow down.

"It really doesn't impact Florida because we're going to continue to launch and I think that's the expectation," Ketcham said.

"We don't know much, nor will we likely for some time. It's unfortunate we lost it because I'm sure they were putting it up there for a good reason," Ketcham said.

He said that, in the fallout of a possible mission failure, the best thing for SpaceX to accomplish is a successful debut of the Falcon Heavy.

"I think if they press ahead with their schedule as it exists, that would reflect that they're very confident that this wasn't their fault," Ketcham said.                    

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