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Northrop Grumman's Faulty Payload Adapter Reportedly Responsible for "Zuma" Failure

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-04-09 18:13:25 from the Northup-Gremlin dept.

Northrop Grumman, rather than SpaceX, is reportedly responsible [] for the loss of a secret satellite (reportedly) worth $3.5 billion:

In early January, SpaceX adamantly denied rumors that it had botched the launch of a classified spy satellite called Zuma, and now, a new government probe has absolved the company of blame for the spacecraft's loss. Government investigators looking into the mission determined that a structure on top of the rocket, called the payload adapter, failed to deploy the satellite into orbit, The Wall Street Journal reports []. That adapter was built by defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which means SpaceX isn't at fault for Zuma's demise.

This scenario aligns with what many speculated at the time []. SpaceX launched Zuma on top of its Falcon 9 rocket on January 7th, and just a day later, reports started to surface that the satellite had fallen back to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere after the mission. However, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell claimed that the rocket performed as it was supposed to. "For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night," she said in a statement. "If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false."

[...] Meanwhile, the payload adapter failure isn't a good look for Northrop Grumman, which is having a difficult time piecing together another important spacecraft right now: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop is the main contractor of the telescope and is currently integrating large pieces of the spacecraft at the company's facilities in Redondo Beach, California. However, NASA recently announced that James Webb's launch will have to be delayed until 2020 [], due to a number of mistakes and delays that were made at Northrop during the construction process.

SpaceX should demand to use its own payload adapters for any new classified/national security launches, because it will probably be granted in light of this "Beltway bandit" fiasco.

Also at CNBC [] and LA Times [].

Previously: SpaceX's Mysterious Zuma Mission May Soon Take Flight []
Rumors Swirl Around the Fate of the Secret "Zuma" Satellite Launched by SpaceX []
Zuma Failure Emboldens SpaceX's ULA-Backed Critics; Gets Support from US Air Force [Updated] []

Related: GAO: James Webb Space Telescope Launch Date Likely Will be Delayed (Again) []
Launch of James Webb Space Telescope Delayed to May 2020, Could Exceed Budget Cap []

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