SpaceX and Northrop Grumman at center of space mystery

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman at center of space mystery

But the source did not indicate whether the satellite was still attached to the Falcon 9 second stage, which amateur satellite trackers said was expected to re-enter over the Indian Ocean at the end of its mission.

Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company that built the Zuma spacecraft, would only say: "This is a classified program". Strategic Command added a new satellite to its catalog after the launch, designated USA 280, but - as usual for classified objects - did not provide an orbital path.

"We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally", said SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson in an e-mail.

"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night", said President and COO Gwynne Shotwell in a statement Tuesday.

Officials believe that it broke up in our atmosphere or plummeted into the sea.

The Falcon's first stage completed its job, lifting the rocket off the pad and toward space, then separated and landed back at Cape Canaveral.

It's also worth noting that the original Zuma launch was planned for November but was delayed for technical reasons having to do with the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during its ascent.

A look at Sunday night's SpaceX launch in Florida.

The rocket left Earth on Sunday around 8 p.m. Eastern time, and touched back down to Earth minutes later, according to

Soviet-born American writer Zecharia Sitchin first wrote about Nibiru in his hit 1976 book 'The 12th Planet' where he claimed it was inhabited by a race of 'ancient aliens' - the Annunaki - who had created the human race.

Are you Zuma? A new entry in the USAF Satellite database.

The NRO first dismissed that the Zuma payload was a satellite.

In 2015, SpaceX was certified by the U.S. Air Force to launch national security satellites.

"The illumination of the rocket plume would cause similar effects as it's passing through those clouds", said Cristaldi. Cheers from employees could be heard from Mission Control at the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. It failed to separate from the Falcon 9 and has probably burned up along with it.

Light from the setting sun enveloped the rocket plume in a white bubble with a comet-like tail that transfixed viewers and went viral on social media.

Even so, usually the government agency involved or SpaceX will confirm later the outcome of the launch.

That phenomenon is known as noctilucent clouds.

Falcon 9 landing after Zuma launch.

What is a Falcon 9 Rocket?

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