SpaceX launches secretive Zuma spacecraft

SpaceX kicked off the new year with a mystery-shrouded mission to deliver a government spacecraft, called Zuma, into ...

Posted: Jan 8, 2018 5:42 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2018 5:42 PM

SpaceX kicked off the new year with a mystery-shrouded mission to deliver a government spacecraft, called Zuma, into orbit.

After more than a month of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket vaulted toward the skies at 8 p.m. ET Sunday with the secretive payload. It launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The space exploration firm, which is headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, initially scheduled the Zuma mission last November.

SpaceX gave a couple reasons for the schedule changes. At one point, SpaceX said it delayed the mission for "fairing testing." The fairing is the very top portion of the rocket that houses the payload. "Extreme weather" also slowed down the company's launch preparations.

Last week, SpaceX finally declared that both the rocket and the payload were "healthy" and ready for launch.

Related: Your guide to commercial space travel in 2018

On Sunday, Zuma was delivered to low-Earth orbit, which is typically defined as any orbital path less than about 1,200 miles above the Earth's surface, according to NASA. Zuma's precise destination was not disclosed.

That was not the only thing kept secret about Zuma.

The spacecraft was built for the U.S. government, and it's not unusual for the government to keep information about sensitive payloads under wraps. Typically these payloads involve a military concern, such as national security, defense or surveillance.

When asked about the project in November, Northrop Grumman -- the Virginia-based aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft -- declined to give any details about the spacecraft or reveal which arm of the government funded it.

"The U.S. Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission," the company said in a statement. "Northrop Grumman realizes this is a monumental responsibility and we have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma."

The company declined further comment Sunday.

Because of Zuma's secrecy, SpaceX didn't live stream the entire mission. But there was still plenty for SpaceX to show off after launch.

Related: SpaceX launch leaves ghostly glowing trail in the sky

The company executed its signature move: guiding the first-stage rocket booster back to Earth for a safe landing.

Just over two minutes after liftoff Sunday, the first-stage booster separated from the second stage and fired up its engines. The blaze allowed the rocket to safely cut back through the Earth's atmosphere and land on a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX lands boosters so they can be reused in future missions. It's meant to help make spaceflight cheaper.

The Zuma launch kicked off what SpaceX hopes will be an exciting year.

The company completed a record-setting 18 launches last year, and SpaceX plans to do even more this year, according to spokesman James Gleeson.

Later this month, the company plans to debut its latest invention: the Falcon Heavy. The monstrous rocket will have three times the thrust of the Falcon 9.

An exact date for the inaugural launch has not been set, but Musk wrote on Instagram last week that SpaceX is looking to do it before the end of the month.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847659

Reported Deaths: 16172
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163752005
Mobile743371381
Madison53434738
Shelby38413371
Baldwin38171589
Tuscaloosa36131643
Montgomery34571782
Lee25664264
Calhoun22622519
Morgan22527408
Etowah20059520
Marshall18821318
Houston17769426
St. Clair16946359
Limestone16192220
Cullman16140305
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15055307
Talladega14244302
DeKalb13061271
Walker12138380
Blount10765193
Autauga10545157
Jackson10204195
Coffee9435192
Colbert9363210
Dale9038192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell710165
Chilton7078170
Covington6967197
Escambia6962144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5795142
Marion5435130
Dallas5302210
Pike5128109
Clarke485686
Lawrence4845130
Winston4785110
Geneva4650136
Bibb435495
Barbour370180
Butler3444101
Marengo342793
Monroe338366
Randolph337767
Pickens334790
Fayette331485
Henry321066
Cherokee319964
Hale318889
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252069
Macon245767
Conecuh193562
Coosa185847
Wilcox178338
Lowndes178268
Bullock152745
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130345
Choctaw94328
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