A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket previously scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week still hasn’t left the ground, and delays could linger on for a little while longer.
Image Credit: SpaceX
Unfavorable weather conditions or technical difficulties often hinder rocket launches, and similar concerns could be to blame for the most recent interruption.
Specifically, SpaceX says they called the latest launch off because of wonky data readouts corresponding to the rocket’s fairing – the highest point of the rocket that carries the payload for delivery into space.
While most of SpaceX’s rocket payloads are merely everyday commercial satellites, this one was particularly substantial, and SpaceX couldn’t risk a potentially-faulty launch. We can infer from the delays that SpaceX is reviewing the data to learn what went wrong.
As for what was hiding inside of the fairing at the time of the unexplained data readings, SpaceX hasn’t said much apart from indicating the nickname ‘Zuma’ for the launch.
Little is known about Zuma, but those familiar with the matter imply that it’s a top-secret United States government payload intended for low-Earth orbit. A description of the payload, how it will get used, and what government agency is responsible for sending it to space are questions that remain unanswered as of now.
Speculation suggests that it could be a military-oriented surveillance spacecraft, but such ideas aren't confirmed yet as of this writing.
This wouldn’t be the first time SpaceX contracted with the United States government to put top-secret payloads in space, and it probably won’t be the last. One example from recent memory is the Air Force’s X-37B space plane, which spent well over 600 days in orbit around the Earth for unknown reasons.
Although countless questions remain about what Zuma is all about, one this is certain: a rescheduled launch is in the cards, and SpaceX will almost definitely follow up with a complimentary first stage landing once the rocket performs its primary task.
We should see an update from SpaceX once engineers discern what caused the anomalous data readouts. Until then, the waiting game continues...
Source: The Verge