Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret U.S. government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by
"The first statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs," so there's no reason so far to question the company's planned participation in
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket seemed to lift off successfully from the pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday carrying a classified payload in a mission code-named Zuma, but the satellite has gone missing. The Defense Department and the Air Force have repeatedly referred questions to SpaceX, which is based in Hawthorne and whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
"After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly," SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Tuesday. If that's confirmed by Defense Department investigators, it leaves open possibilities such as a failure in the coupling that was supposed to release the satellite from the rocket.
Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp., which manufactured the satellite and chose SpaceX for the mission, declined to comment on the coupling, saying: "We cannot comment on classified missions."
SpaceX is saying, "'Everything performed as expected, it's not our fault,'" said Marco Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies with the Teal Group. "The onus is on the Air Force or Grumman to prove otherwise."
Caceres predicted SpaceX will probably proceed "with business as usual and try to keep with their very aggressive launch schedule."
Congressional inquiries into the satellite failure may revive debate about SpaceX's rivalry for military contracts with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and
"The record shows they have promise, but they've had issues as a vendor," Shelby said Wednesday, referring to SpaceX. "United Launch, knock on wood, they've had an outstanding record."
United Launch Alliance was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts challenging what he called an unfair monopoly. After an extensive Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.