Another noticeable addition to the intrigue is that while SpaceX typically broadcasts its launches via webcam, this launch did not receive the full treatment - the Zuma spacecraft was not shown when it separated from the first stage of the rocket. The government agency that ordered the spacecraft has not been disclosed. And as soon as April, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will be used in the U.S. Air Force's Space Test Program-2 mission, which is comprised of military and scientific research satellites. The launch was originally planned for Thursday, but then was postponed to Sunday without explanation. SpaceX had already been approved for flying U.S. government payloads after the company successfully launched the U.S. Air Force's X-47B spacecraft. If additional reviews uncover any problems, she said, "we will report it immediately".
The conflicting reports, coupled with the seemingly incongruous aftermath, are adding a rocket-load of mystery to an already mysterious launch.
"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Monday.
"Northrop Grumman realizes that this is monumental responsibility and have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma", Lon Rains, communications director for Northrop Grumman's Space Systems Division, said in an official statement. What people saw was the launch, but did not see the separation of the nose cone, which surrounds the satellite during launch, nor did it show the satellite being deployed. The Journal cited government and industry officials who were briefed on the mission and said the satellite didn't separate and plunged back into the atmosphere.
Classified indeed. Pretty much all we know about Zuma is its vague destination - low-Earth orbit.