SpaceX launches secret government payload, brings rocket back home

  • SpaceX launches secret government payload, brings rocket back home

SpaceX launches secret government payload, brings rocket back home

This launch has been delayed previously, in part due to weather, but the launch window opened again this evening at 5 p.m.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the secretive Zuma spacecraft will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Sunday night.

A series of engine firings to flip it around and slow its plunge through the atmosphere culminated in SpaceX's 21st rocket landing in just over two years.

It's still unclear where the Zuma mission will be heading.

If all goes according to plan, the mission will be SpaceX's first launch of 2018.

Contracted by Northrop Grumman for an unspecified USA agency, the mission was known to be headed into a low Earth orbit, roughly 250 miles up, on a northeasterly trajectory angled about 50 degrees relative to the equator.

The deployment of the satellite was followed by the successful landing of the Falcon 9 first stage at the nearby landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Zuma could be a military satellite, an intelligence and reconnaissance satellite, or something unique and experimental.

It carries the Zuma spacecraft, which has had repeated launch delays since November. It was postponed to allow SpaceX to analyze data from a previous launch.

Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, has said there is a good chance the new rocket could blow up, thus his own personal property will be the payload on top: his Tesla Roadster.

January is shaping up to be a busy month on Florida's Space Coast.