SpaceX Launches Zuma Mission, Lands First Stage at the Cape

1_3_Falcon 9

SpaceX on Sunday blasted off a secretive United States government payload known as Zuma, a mission whose nature - and the agency behind it - remains a mystery.

A series of engine firings to flip it around and slow its plunge through the atmosphere culminated in SpaceX's 21st rocket landing in just over two years.

The Falcon 9 carrying "Zuma" lifts off from a SpaceX launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. The landing caused a sonic boom to be heard all the way to Orlando. (SpaceX has had 17 consecutive successful landings, so they're getting pretty good at this). Zuma will be the first before the company premiers its new Falcon Heavy rocket, sometime later in January.

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"Northrop Grumman is proud to be a part of the Zuma launch".

The spokesperson also said that Zuma is heading to low-Earth orbit.

Skies were clear enough for viewers on the Space Coast to see the rocket's two stages separate, briefly producing a sort of laser light show in the clouds, then follow the first stage as it flew back to Landing Zone 1.

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SpaceX uses the drone ship when it is sending a large payload to a low orbit or a lighter payload to a higher orbit because of the larger amount of fuel needed to bring the stage back.

Zuma could be a military satellite, an intelligence and reconnaissance satellite, or something unique and experimental. That office has not claimed this payload.

The rocket payload is provided by Northrop Gruman, but all other details are classified, including which government agency commissioned the payload.

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