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The Falcon Heavy rocket will be one of SpaceX's biggest tests yet

13 January 2018

On Tuesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell released an even stronger statement and pushed back against reports that a second-stage malfunction may have been to blame, saying that "after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night".

Space Exploration Technologies Corp, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched its first satellite for the United States military with its Falcon 9 rocket in May of past year. Rumours have arisen that the mission was carrying a spy satellite of Pentagon and that it even had the capability to fix other satellites.

The U.S. military's official catalog of human-made objects in space recorded an object that reached orbit attributed to Sunday's Falcon 9 flight.

A senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Laura Grego, showed concern that the satellite might have stopped functioning near the orbit or failed to separate from the rocket during the second half of the mission. A recycled Falcon 9 booster stage that first flew May 1 with the USA government's classified NROL-76 payload will hoist the GovSat 1 spacecraft toward orbit, and a factory-fresh second stage will finish the job. No further requests for communication were entertained by the company regarding the mission.

Also, the future flights of SpaceX will remain scheduled as they were.

Reports began to trickle in Monday afternoon that Zuma, which was said to be worth more than $1 billion, may have been lost after it was launched Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX rocket.

According to Wired Magazine, Northrop Grumman supplied the adapter fitting connecting the Zuma payload with the Falcon 9 rocket.

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"I would have to refer you to SpaceX, who conducted the launch", Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said repeatedly during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon.

That in itself was a statement: "They're not going to launch again if they think there's a chance it was their fault", said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Meanwhile, ULA maintained that responsibility for vital national security satellites that cost hundreds of millions should not just be decided on price. CEO Elon Musk named the spacecraft the most important (expensive) payload ever launched by the company.

Since the contracts became competitively bid, SpaceX was won two of three contests.

The Falcon Heavy will be carrying Musk's midnight cherry Tesla Roadster as its payload to ensure that the rocket works with heavy cargo aboard. As of now, SpaceX is moving ahead with its launch manifest.

"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.

"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. "The onus is on the Air Force or Grumman to prove otherwise", he said.

The Falcon Heavy rocket will be one of SpaceX's biggest tests yet