In January 2018, code-name mission Zuma, a secret government satellite was successfully launched by SpaceX atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The lift-off took place at Launch Complex 40, with the Falcon 9 rocket booster returning to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station amid sonic booms, touching down successfully at the launch site. Due to clear skies, residents and visitors on Florida’s Space Coast were able to witness the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch stages as well as the flashing laser lights erupting through the clouds, and the successful flight back to Landing Zone 1. The landing followed a turn around and slow descent back Cape Canaveral and marked SpaceX’s 21 successful rocket landing in only two years.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the mission to design, manufacture, and launch rockets and other spacecrafts to move toward the goal of allowing humans to colonize and live on other planets. Since 2002, SpaceX continues to reach milestones in revolutionizing space travel. In 2010, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully return a space craft from low Earth orbit. In 2012, SpaceX made history again as the first private enterprise to deliver cargo via spacecraft to the ISS (International Space Station). Today SpaceX’s Dragon continues to execute numerous resupply missions to the ISS. In 2017, SpaceX accomplished re-flight of an orbital class rocket, moving rocket reusability forward. Dragon is scheduled to carry astronauts to the ISS beginning in 2018.
The SpaceX Falcon program includes the development of fully reusable rockets like the Falcon 9 used in the Zuma mission, ultimately reducing costs, and providing high quality reliable vehicles for space exploration. Because Zuma is a secret mission, contracted by Northrup Grumman for an unnamed United States agency, SpaceX ended its broadcast shortly into the flight. Little is known regarding the secretive Zuma mission other than it was known to be in low Earth orbit (250 miles) with a northeast trajectory. Even so, speculation abounds among amateur satellite trackers who believe Zuma to be an experimental craft testing secret technology. Others believer Zuma is connected to last year’s mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. The Zuma mission, which was scheduled for November 2017, was delayed due to an issue with the nose cone of the Falcon 9.
SpaceX recent Zuma launch starts 2018 off well, following 2017, their best year to date which included 18 successful launchers and zero failures. SpaceX hopes to top that in 2018, launching from three launch pads – Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
SpaceX has more than 24 launches planned for 2018, which means on average launching two or more mission per month. These plans include the introduction of the new Falcon Heavy beginning with the test-firing of the 27 Merlin engines which power the Falcon Heavy Rocket. The other major plans for SpaceX include the initial test flights of an astronaut space craft for NASA.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has boasted the Falcon Heavy debut flight, planned for early in 2018 at the Kennedy Space Center, will carry his Tesla Roadster into space. SpaceX had additional launches planned early in the year – a European communication satellite to be launched from Cape Canaveral and a Spanish Earth observation space craft to be launched from Vandenberg. These launches are scheduled to use Falcon 9 boosters in SpaceX’s continuing effort to re-fly rockets which have successfully returned from previous missions.
As SpaceX continues to move forward in Brevard County at both the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the future continues to look bright for the county and all the Space Coast.