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posted by cmn32480 on Tuesday January 23 2018, @12:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the rocketing-to-the-future dept.

[Updated: 2018-01-23 @ 00:58 UTC --martyb]

A more recent article at Ars Technica notes SpaceX gets good news from the Air Force on the Zuma mission:

A little more than two weeks have passed since the apparent loss of the highly classified Zuma mission. Since then, SpaceX has publicly and privately stated that its Falcon 9 rocket performed nominally throughout the flight—with both its first and second stages firing as anticipated.

Now, the US Air Force seems to be backing the rocket company up. "Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX's Falcon 9 certification status," Lieutenant General John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told Bloomberg News. This qualified conclusion came after a preliminary review of data from the Zuma launch. That's according to Thompson, who said the Air Force will continue to review data from all launches.

[Original story follows]

Ars Technica has described how "far-right" critics of SpaceX (such as The Federalist) have attacked the company following the apparent failure to deploy a secretive "Zuma" spy satellite payload for the U.S. government. Northrop Grumman could be responsible for the failure of the payload to separate from the Falcon 9's second stage, but nobody will confirm that officially. During a recent hearing about commercial spaceflight, one Congressman brought up the claims of a Forbes hit piece written by the COO of an institute backed by the United Launch Alliance (ULA):

Now, at least one of the post-Zuma criticisms can be linked to SpaceX's competitors in the launch industry: Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the parent companies of United Launch Alliance. A recent opinion article in Forbes raised like-minded concerns about SpaceX's reliability under the rubric of "doubts." This was authored by Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of The Lexington Institute, which derives revenue from contributions by Lockheed, Boeing, and other major defense companies.

Thompson's article appeared to be coordinated with a hearing on commercial spaceflight this week in the US House. While most representatives asked good, probing questions about delays in the commercial crew program—the effort by Boeing and SpaceX to build spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station—Congressman Mo Brooks was an exception.

Brooks represents the northern tier of Alabama, including the Decatur region where United Launch Alliance builds its rockets. During the hearing, Brooks said, "I'm going to read from an article that was published earlier this week, entitled 'Doubts about SpaceX reliability persist as astronaut missions approach;' it was in Forbes magazine." Brooks, who has received about $70,000 in donations from Lockheed and Boeing during his congressional career, then went on to read critical parts of the piece into the record.

[...] If SpaceX truly did no wrong, which seems likely, full exoneration for Zuma will probably only come through one of two ways. The payload adapter's manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, could admit to a fault. (The company has so far not commented). Alternatively, the US government could announce the cause of the failure. (So far, the Pentagon will not even acknowledge there was a failure of Zuma). Neither seems likely in the near term, if ever.

The uncertainty after Zuma, therefore, has offered fertile ground for SpaceX's critics to reemerge after the company's success in 2017. In the meantime, its commercial satellite customers seem content.

NextBigFuture recently defended SpaceX against The Federalist's claim that SpaceX wastes taxpayer money. (Spoiler Alert: It is actually the United Launch Alliance and the Space Launch System that waste taxpayer money.)

Previously: SpaceX's Mysterious Zuma Mission May Soon Take Flight

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday January 23 2018, @02:43AM (2 children)

    by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday January 23 2018, @02:43AM (#626402)

    Talking out of your ass, I see.

    The short version is that a lot of people need to know the physical characteristics of the box, otherwise it will NOT get to the right orbit.
    That payload adapter didn't appear out of thin air. Someone had to double-check that NG understood the specs and did not threaten the SpaceX workers by screwing up.

    Those who have to know a lot have Clearances. Those who happen to guess based on the fuel orders, or the return trajectory, may not. You keep the list as short as possible, but it's still pretty darn long.
    It's not clear if anyone has to know what's in the box (structure, not capabilities). If someone has to, you can be sure they have a TS or better Clearance, and will just never admit they do.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday January 23 2018, @04:10AM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <> on Tuesday January 23 2018, @04:10AM (#626416) Journal

    He's not talking out of his ass. SpaceX got the rocket into orbit, as evidence by where it reentered into the atmosphere. And SpaceX did not touch the payload adapter, which was made by Northrup Grumman instead of SpaceX as usual. The payload was added at a separate facility out of their sight.

    SpaceX should just refuse to do any classified missions where it can't at least get the payload on board. Zuma was only their 3rd classified mission.

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23 2018, @10:34AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23 2018, @10:34AM (#626490)

      He's not talking out of his ass.

      Well, he's talking out of jmorris's ass, then. Which, when you think about it, is rather strange.