The company live streamed the guiding of the first stage rocket booster back to earth for a safe landing.
A military satellite launched by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hasn't been spotted in orbit by the U.S. Strategic Command, creating a mystery about the fate of the classified payload and doubts about whether the mission was a success.
A US official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch said on condition of anonymity that the second-stage booster section of the Falcon 9 failed. As of now, the status of the secret Zuma mission is still unknown.
A U.S. spy satellite which was supposed to launch into orbit on Sunday night is expected to be a "total loss" after it reportedly didn't make it.
It conducted 18 launches last year. But Sunday's launch is perhaps the company's most secretive yet. The two-hour launch window opens at 8pm ET.
"Extreme weather slowed operations, but Falcon 9 and the Zuma spacecraft are healthy and go for launch", said Space X on January 7. At that time, the launch director confirmed that the propellant loading had begun. The spacecraft's exact location has not been disclosed.
Satellites can fall victim to any number of failures and malfunctions after separation from their boosters.
Of course, this assumes the thing doesn't explode mid-launch.
"Having that capability is a critical part of growing the U.S. space program and certainly the capabilities of the Cape Canaveral space port to become a more dominant part of the future", Ketcham said.
That would indicate the presumed problem did not involve the Falcon 9. About eight minutes after takeoff, the rocket's first stage will attempt to land back at the Cape. The ship will enter another city and then re-enter the atmosphere. As usual for classified launches, the information released by SpaceX before liftoff was bereft of details about the payload.
Northrop Grumman, which built the satellite, told Dow Jones through a spokesman: "We cannot comment on classified missions".
The satellite was launched on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. There is no indication of what agency will operate it. We don't even know exactly where Suma is in orbit.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations.