SpaceX launch of secret 'Zuma' mission delayed again

SpaceX yet to announce new launch date, time

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands vertical on the pad at Kennedy Space Center. The company will launch mission Zuma on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The window opens at 8 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - SpaceX has delayed its super-secret mission, only known as "Zuma" again, after two previous launch delays.

The Falcon 9 launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday night, but SpaceX pushed liftoff 24 hours to allow time for final preparations. The liftoff was then planned for Thursday night, then Friday, according to the U.S Air Force 45th Space Wing. 

Now the next launch window is unclear. There is no launch weather forecast listed for Friday or Saturday per the 45th Space Wing website.

News 6 partner Florida Today reported the delay could be due to a possible hardware issue.

“We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer," SpaceX communications Director John Taylor said Thursday. "Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

About 10 minutes after launch, SpaceX will land its Falcon 9 booster back at Cape Canaveral. The company issued a sonic boom warning for Central Florida residents in Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties. Space Coast residents are most likely to hear the thunder-like noise as the first stage moves faster than the speed of sound. Weather conditions can affect how intense the sonic boom will sound.

The company successfully completed an engine test fire last weekend, allowing SpaceX to move ahead with the planned launch of Zuma.

Very few details are known about the mission.

Northrop Grumman was contracted by the U.S. government to fulfill the payload, the company said last month. There are some clues about Zuma's destination because SpaceX plans to launch the rocket's first stage back at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 and not on the drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, meaning it's likely destined for a low Earth orbit.

The launch will mark the 17th this year for Falcon 9.

In one of the last planned launches of the year, SpaceX will use Cape Canaveral Air Force Complex pad 40 for the first time since an explosion damaged the pad last year. A Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft will deliver supplies to the International Space Station for NASA on Dec. 4.

The company also has plans for the first test flight of its new, more powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX is targeting before the end of 2017.

Check back to for live updates on launch day and to watch the liftoff.

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