2017 was a record year for SpaceX with 18 successful launches. In 2018 the company continued to build on that achievement with another successful launch for the US government.
Sunday’s SpaceX Falcon 9 launch propelled project Zuma into orbit. The launch Zuma – a ‘government spacecraft’ – is proof that SpaceX is actively developing new partnerships.
The launch took place at 8 pm EST at the Cape Canaveral Air Force base.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed at Landing Zone 1. pic.twitter.com/679wN4F8kX
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 8, 2018
The secretive government payload has been sat on top of the rocket since November. SpaceX has remained tight-lipped about the actual destination of their rocket; which government department is funding it, or any of the specification of the spacecraft itself.
We know the craft is non-military and that ‘National Reconnaissance Mission (NRO)’ denied in November the craft belonged to them. This means the craft is most likely a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), or National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) project.
We know the craft will be launched into Low Earth Orbit ( ~1931km above the surface of the Earth), but without knowing the destination, not much can be determined about its purpose.
Secrecy around the launch meant SpaceX did not completely live-feed the launch, but Elon Musk did provide this stunning image on Instagram.
In the end, the launch provded routine; with the rocket booster landing safely back Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.