The early January launch of the highly coveted US spy satellite, Zuma faced a major downfall, when the satellite could not separate itself, as programmed from the Falcon 9 rocket’s upper stage & thus never placed itself into the orbit. Rather, it came back into the atmosphere, with its launcher’s upper stage, later it broke free & ended up plunging into the Indian Ocean.
Zuma was launched on Jan 7, upon a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, initiating an undercover mission for the American government. SpaceX lifted off the highly secretive satellite from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Elon Musk led Hawthorne Space Company in its statement said that the procedures which are followed during all security launches are carried out in order and the live telecast of the take-off was concluded after both the stages of the rocket detached. In its live screening only, it was established by the company that the covering that shelters the payloads at the tip of the rocket has ejected.
Very limited amount of information was available about the craft’s mission. This pursuit was to be highly concealed, that bureaucrats too did not authenticate about which agency will be managing Zuma. It was only known by the craft itself, what exactly it was scheduled to perform in orbit.The next day it was confirmed that the craft is lost. The sneaking suspicion then concentrated on what actually had gone out of order. From the beginning only, SpaceX asserted that the performance of Falcon 9 was normal during its flight- a response which proved to be true.
Two individual bodies of aerospace industry professionals & government experts have experimentally came to a conclusion that the trouble arose with the component called ‘payload adapter’. Payload adapter connected the specialized craft to the rocket Falcon 9’s upper stage. The elite aerospace company Northrop Grumman made the satellite Zuma & also supplied the payload adapter for the project. The company bought the component from a subcontractor and considerably modified it & then put it through test three times on the ground.
But in no gravity condition, upon reaching the orbit the component did not disunite the rocket from the craft. The different alterations to the adapter were done probably to make the vibrations during detachment considerably less, as the satellite’s special design was susceptible to damages caused by jolts.
The data about the Zuma’s failure is another piece of sad news for Northrop Grumman, as is the leading contractor for the NASA’s prestigious multi-billion James Webb Space Telescope; the Hubble Space Telescope will be replaced by it. Authorities at NASA mentioned the need to conduct more numbers of testing, and also quoted about various problems with the designing of Webb’s systems. NASA will now conduct stricter overlook of the Webb project at Northrop Grumman, in the wake of the recent Zuma findings.