SpaceX launches secret Zuma craft for U.S. government

Violet Powell
January 9, 2018

SpaceX successfully launched a secret US government payload called Zuma on Sunday and landed its rocket back on Earth, in the company's first mission of 2018. The Falcon rocket returned to earth within minutes. The rocket's first stage has also landed 12 times on droneships in the ocean as SpaceX pushed to lower launch costs with reusable rockets.

For a few moments, the dueling rockets' exhaust flows interacted in the upper atmosphere, creating a colorful, nearly nebula-like display over the Florida coast. The name Zuma refers to a Southern California beach.

The lack of basic details surrounding the launch is highly unusual even compared to SpaceX's national-security launches. It was similar to - but still slightly different than - the exhaust plume that startled many California residents after a west coast launch late past year.

Falcon Heavy was vertical on the Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39A last week for the first time.

Oil tanker collides with vessel off China coast, 32 crew members missing
The Chinese ministry said the second ship in the collision was a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship carrying 64,000 tons of grain. Analysts say the region is so unsafe for ships because of the sheer amount of cargo being transported through its waters.

The inaugural launch is scheduled for later this month.

According to Musk, the Falcon Heavy is the "most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two", and with 2,500 tons of thrust, is the equivalent of "18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle".

While the press kit reveals nothing about the spacecraft, a report says that amateur satellite trackers believe it to be an experimental vessel built with new technologies.

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