Lawmakers Look Into SpaceX Launch That Ended with Lost Satellite (excerpt)
(Source: Bloomberg News; published Jan 11, 2018)
By Erik Wasson, Anthony Capaccio and Rick Clough
Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret U.S. government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

“The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs” so there’s no reason so far to question the company’s planned participation in NASA space projects, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transport Committee, said Wednesday before being briefed.

SpaceX and Boeing Co. are partners in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to revive human spaceflights from Nelson’s state.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket seemed to lift off successfully from the pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday carrying a classified payload in a mission code-named Zuma, but the satellite has gone missing. The Defense Department and the Air Force have repeatedly referred questions to SpaceX.

“After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly,” SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Tuesday. If that’s confirmed by Defense Department investigators, it leaves open possibilities such as a failure in the coupling that was supposed to release the satellite from the rocket.

Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp., which manufactured the satellite and chose SpaceX for the mission, declined to comment on the coupling, saying “we cannot comment on classified missions.” (end of excerpt)

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