The company now waits for the launch of Falcon Heavy later this month, as they aim to beat last year’s launches.
SpaceX, the Elon Musk owned company, has finally launched the Zuma spacecraft for the US government. The secretive spacecraft was launched on the 8th of January, 2018. There had been multiple delays at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but the takeoff eventually took place. The mission is the first for SpaceX in 2018 after they launched a record 18 successful launches in the previous year.
The launch, marking the Falcon 9 launch of the year had two stages to its launch. The two stages were separated by at least two minutes. The second stage was the one which saw the Zuma spacecraft to low earth orbit. The exact location of the spacecraft has not been disclosed as yet. The first stage of the rocket managed to make its way back to earth and landed at the Cape Canaveral base, eight minutes after it had lifted off. The booster landing was the 21st successful for SpaceX, showing that they are now more confident in the move.
There have been relatively few details regarding the satellite which belongs to the US government. The information is classified and as a result, SpaceX could not live stream the launch and the entire mission.
Back in November, the Virginia based aerospace and defence company, Northrop Grumman, said in a statement that they had been assigned the responsibility of launch services by the US government for the mission. The company built the Zuma spacecraft and in their statement back then noted that they had taken care to ensure that there would be close to zero risks with the Zuma space shuttle.
The Zuma mission was at first scheduled for a November launch. However, due to various issues and weather delays, the mission had been aborted numerous times. However, last week SpaceX announced that they were ready for liftoff, adding that both the rocket and its payload were healthy.
The company aims to top the 18 successful launches that they managed last year with no failures. The COO of the company, Gwynne Shotwell, speaking to reporters, said that they hoped to increase their cadence by at least 50 percent. In the interview done I. November last year, Shotwell promised that they will fly more in 2018 than last year, up to at least 30 to 40 launches and then level at that rate.
The success of the Zuma launch will now pave the way for the Falcon Heavy rocket launch that SpaceX was planning for later this month. The Falcon Heavy rocket will have about three times more thrust power than Falcon 9. It is also designed to carry humans into space and also fly crews to Mars and the moon.
The company has not yet put a definitive date for the inaugural launch. The CEO of the company, wealthy tech billionaire Elon Musk, however said that they planned to launch by the end of January. Musk has warned previously that the Falcon Heavy launch might not be as successful as anticipated because some of the tests can’t be carried on the ground. However, he did assure that it was exciting times.