Air Force reaffirms its SpaceX certification after Zuma

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In another indication to me that SpaceX had nothing to do with the claimed failure of the secret government Zuma mission (assuming it failed at all), the commander of the Air Force space unit said today that SpaceX’s Air Force launch certification remains unchanged.

“Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX’s Falcon 9 certification status,” Bloomberg News quoted Lt. Gen. John Thompson as saying in a statement today.

At this moment, we really have no idea whether Zuma succeeded or not. The government might say it failed, but it has provided no evidence to prove that. Moreover, this statement by the head of the Air Force space division makes me very much inclined to believe that not only did SpaceX’s rocket perform perfectly, but that Zuma was a success as well. And that success probably includes an effort to hide the mission’s success with the disinformation campaign that followed launch.



  • ken anthony

    Then there are those pesky law pf physics. Either air resistance or retro-thrust is required to bring it down. It didn’t happen, so they aren’t fooling anyone.

  • Juan

    If Zuma was intended to look like it failed for whatever reason, I wonder if the storm this has created for SpaceX is worth it to them to participate in mission types such as these going forward? Based on Musk’s intended goal of getting to Mars, any distractions such as this could hinder that goal in my opinion.

  • BSJ

    If there was something still in orbit, armature satellite trackers would have found it and posted the data.

    You can’t hide stuff in orbit…

  • 1201AlarmSameType

    Oh. Yes you can. A F117 had the radar cross section of a golf ball and it was built in the 70’s. Think multi faceted diamond.

  • Kirk

    While I doubt Zuma is up there hiding, armature satellite trackers still haven’t located the X-37B OTV-5 launched back in September of last year.

  • BSJ

    You don’t need radar to see things in orbit. Any decent camera on a tracking mount will pick up very faint objects.

    Use a telescope and you can go even fainter.

    They can’t make something black enough that it won’t reflect some sunlight.

    If nobody knows where OTV-5 is, why can I go onto and let it tell me when I can see it from my house?

  • 1201AlarmSameType

    EM spectrum is EM spectrum. You could design the facets not to reflect light to earth. Even be clever and make them adjustable.
    OTV-5 is a bad example. Designed to be a lifting body not a stealth shape.

  • Localfluff

    Maybe it did its thing on its short journey. How far is it thought to have traveled? Several orbits? Sounding rockets are launched to make a single scientific measurement. They even sound-launch telescopes that image one object while in space.Maybe it was targeted by a ground or space based laser to test aiming and heating of the target, without turning it into a debris could.

  • wodun

    Zuma was assigned a tracking number by NORAD after the launch,

    Zuma’s orbital characteristics give it a great view of the world’s oceans.

    Time will tell.

  • BSJ

    How would you angle a every part of a craft so that it reflects no light to every location on up to 50% of the Earth’s surface for every night time pass?

    Not possible.

    One location on the Earth would be possible. But not everywhere at the same time.

  • Edward

    BSJ wrote: “How would you angle a every part of a craft so that it reflects no light to every location on up to 50% of the Earth’s surface for every night time pass? Not possible.

    It is also not necessary. The F117 stealth fighter does not do this, because it does not have to. All that it and Zuma have to do is reflect radar away most of the time. Even if light is reflected only most of the time it will be difficult to find in the first place and even more difficult to follow.

    The F117 flies as though it will occasionally reflect radar back to the receiver, because it does not absorb all the radar energy but reflects it (fairly strongly, too) only at certain angles, so the pilots do not fly straight but zig zag continuously in order to make those reflections arbitrarily spaced in time and place. Thus the fighter looks like noise in the system. If Zuma is a stealth satellite, then it may be doing something similar in order to prevent its skin panels from reflecting back in a way that is easy to follow.

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