'Zuma' Will Launch Today, and We Have No Idea What It Is

Inside SpaceX's 3rd national-security launch
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2017 11:12 AM CST

(Newser) – As far as secrets go, "Zuma" is a juicy one. That's the name given to the payload SpaceX is scheduled to blast into low earth orbit from Cape Canaveral sometime between 8pm and 10pm local time Thursday, and as CNET puts it, "just about all that is known about Zuma is that it's going to help the US government do ... something." Deepening the mystery is that no government agency has claimed the payload. Federal contractor Northrop Grumman was tasked with "acquiring launch services for this mission," per a statement to CNET, but about as much as it has to say is this: "We have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma." What has been cobbled together thus far:

  • Florida Today notes that the plan—to have the Falcon 9 booster return and land—reaffirms that Zuma is headed to a low earth orbit and could mean it doesn't weigh as much as past SpaceX missions. "Heavier satellites typically require drone ship landings or expendable first stages due to fuel constraints," it explains.

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