SpaceX launches secret government payload, brings rocket back home

Doug Carpenter
January 8, 2018

The launch is SpaceX's first in what is expected to be a busy year. This makes sense given that the relatively low orbit would SpaceX to bring the Falcon 9 first stage in for a landing back on land, rather than a drone ship at sea.

Originally planned for a November launch, the mysterious Zuma mission may finally go to space on Sunday evening.

SpaceX has launched a secret satellite codenamed Zuma on its first flight of the new year.

SpaceX on Sunday blasted off a secretive United States government payload known as Zuma, a mission whose nature - and the agency behind it - remains a mystery. The rocket's first stage will attempt a controlled landing back on Earth at Landing Zone 1.

"Everybody involved with the mission is pretty tight-lipped about it", reported previous year.

SpaceX ended launch commentary five minutes into the flight, due to the classified nature of the US satellite.

For Sunday night's launch time, the orbital tracks of those three spacecraft - Zuma, the NRO satellite and the ISS - were no longer closely aligned, suggesting the missions might not be related after all.

The company aims to top that total this year, flying from three launch pads - at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Kennedy Space Center and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It's likely the feed will go live around 7:45pm ET, a few minutes prior to the launch window.

Success on Sunday will clear the way for SpaceX's next launch from Florida, the much anticipated test flight of the Falcon Heavy booster.

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