The Zuma mission is a SpaceX launch that was scheduled for Thursday to take a satellite (Zuma) into low-Earth orbit (between 100 and 1,200 miles above the surface) for an unnamed branch of the U.S. government. It is one of three SpaceX missions this year to carry the highest level of security restrictions assigned by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The Zuma mission payload was built by aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman, and alongside the satellite is an “adapter” designed to link Zuma to the Falcon 9 rocket.
The Zuma mission payload appears to be even more secretive than SpaceX’s two such operations earlier this year, with the manifest revealing only scraps of information.
The first secret mission payload was the unmanned solar-powered secret space plane, the X-37B, and the other was a “clandestine surveillance satellite” (read spy satellite) for the National Reconnaissance Office, a DoD intelligence agency.
The Zuma mission launch was cancelled on Thursday, with SpaceX wanting to “take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer.”
For reference, a payload fairing on a rocket is essentially the nose cone that encapsulates the payload and protects the spacecraft from the tremendous pressure and heat when launching through the atmosphere.
SpaceX has not ruled out an 8 pm Friday launch, but according to Florida Today, “the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing Thursday night said the mission labeled “Zuma” was removed from the schedule entirely.”
A definite launch date is yet to be confirmed by SpaceX.
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