In the early days of January, the rocket company, SpaceX obstinately denied the rumors that they had botched operation in the launching of Zuma, a classified spy satellite. Now, there is a new government investigating body the cleared the rocket company for the incidence and said that they should not be the one to take responsibility for the blaming.
According to the reports released by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the government probe that looks into the mission had determined that the rocket’s upper structure, which is called a payload adapter fails to deploy the satellite into the orbit in space. The defense contractor, Northrop Grumman, is the one build the adapter, meaning the failure of the overall operation shouldn’t be blamed to the SpaceX.
There are several speculations associated with that scenario during that time. SpaceX had launched Zuma on the top of Falcon 9 spacecraft on the 7th of January. Later, after a day, there are several reports saying that satellite had fallen to Earth and it was burned in the atmosphere surface after the company’s mission. However, at the back of this speculation, according to Gwynne Shotwell, a SpaceX president, the launched rocket works as expected and there is no trouble on its launching.
WSJ confirms that SpaceX is not the one responsible for the Zuma loss. Their report says that Zuma’s shape had made it susceptible, which may be a potential cause of the damage from the vibrations. This is the reasons why Grumman has a significant modification in the adapter to allow the spacecraft separation to be delicate.
Just before the flight takes place, the adapter had undergone testing multiple times, reported by WSJ. However, in space, it never tried once. In return, Zuma is dragged down to the atmosphere by its rocket. According to the WSJ report, it eventually separated itself from the rocket, but the surface for it is too low, making it difficult to save anymore. Grumman immediately kept himself silent and never give his comment to the request of The Verge.
This is a good news for the SpaceX, as the government probe is at their side for the Zuma loss. On the other hand, the failure of the payload adapter gives a bad impression to Grumman. He is also the main contractor of a telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope under NASA. Due to the incidence, NASA had announced that this telescope launching will more likely to be delayed until 2020 because of the mistakes made at Grumman in the process of creation.