|Operator||Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||8 January 2018, 01:00UTC|
|Rocket||Falcon 9 FT|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral LC-40|
|End of mission|
|Disposal||Re-entry as a result of failure to orbit|
|Decay date||8 January 2018|
USA-280 (codenamed "Zuma") is or was a classified United States government satellite that was launched by SpaceX on 8 January 2018. The specific agency in charge of the Zuma project has not been disclosed, nor its purpose. Unnamed sources have stated that the satellite was lost during deployment and re-entered the atmosphere.
The satellite, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, was initially scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center LC-39A in mid-November 2017. The rocket performed a static fire test as part of its pre-flight preparation, but results from a payload fairing test for another customer led to a delay of nearly two months. The launch was subsequently rescheduled for 4 January 2018, and was further delayed because of weather-related concerns.
The satellite was launched on 8 January 2018 at 01:00 UTC from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The Falcon 9 first stage touched down at Landing Zone 1, and SpaceX later announced that all data indicated the launch vehicle had performed properly.
U.S. lawmakers have reportedly been briefed about the loss of the spacecraft and an unnamed government official said that it had re-entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, possibly due to a failure in the payload adapter provided by Northrop Grumman. Due to the classified nature of the mission, detailed information on the satellite and its fate may not be publicly released. Officially, NORAD still lists the satellite but with no orbital parameters and the orbital status code "no elements available", which is standard procedure for classified missions.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, made the following statement:
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. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible. 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.
Lon Rains, Communications Director of Northrop Grumman, made the following statement:
This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions.
The US government has not even stated if there was a failure of Zuma, and this secrecy has generated speculations on its purpose and its fate. A number of articles published by the amateur satellite tracking community state that if the satellite is still in orbit and operating covertly, they will attempt to locate it visually. Both Popular Science and Breaking Defence have published articles on the satellite tracking community and its views. At the moment, Zuma would not be visible from the Northern hemisphere because all passes would be in daylight or in Earth shadow.
Long exposure of the launch and landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Falcon 9 Flight 47.|