back to article Mystery surrounds fate of secret satellite slung by SpaceX

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have refused to address rumors that all may not be well with the classified "Zuma" satellite launched on Monday. Speculation about the fate of the satellite arose after the editor of Space Intel Report, Peter de Selding, noticed that after the expected satellite deployment, there was no word from …

  1. ST Silver badge

    Reuters says it's "believed destroyed"

    Here.

  2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    That's what they want you to believe

    Of course it's now in a polar orbit at E125.

    Nice to know the USAF is doing something to protect the US against Trump's stupidity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's what they want you to believe

      Gee, I don't know. Trump's stupidity is supposed to be pretty monumental, according to those who oppose him. I'm not sure even the USAF can prevail over thickness of that magnitude. Heck, if Hillary (world's smartest woman) couldn't do it, who can? Trump's weapons-grade density appears unstoppable.

      And now we learn that he didn't even want to win! Just imagine what he'd have accomplished if he did!

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: That's what they want you to believe

        Trump doesn't want to win? I'm not sure what you think I'm suggesting, but the problem with Trump has always been his need to win - his need for Donald J. Trump to win and his complete lack of concern about who get's hurt along the way whether it's a few people or a few million. I was joking about the USAF putting the satellite in orbit above North Korea. I assume all the US intelligence agencies have been watching North Korea at the highest priority ever since Trump started spewing out his nuclear armed schoolboy threats. But if you don't think the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea is something to worry about I don't know what to say.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

          That is indeed something to worry about. However, some of us may remember the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, which perhaps puts the current situation in a slightly different light (which is /not/ to say the NK situation should be regarded as trivial).

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

            Well, then, it was Kennedy and khrushchev. Now it's Kim and Trump.

            That's why I'm worried (and why I'm glad I live in the Southern Hemisphere).

            1. ricardian

              Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

              Have you read "On the beach"?

              1. Scroticus Canis
                Happy

                Re: ... Have you read "On the beach"?

                No, but I did see the film. Does that count?

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: ... Have you read "On the beach"?

                  The film (either version) isn't as good as the book.

                  1. Peb

                    Re: ... Have you read "On the beach"?

                    The later film version is crud. But I always find it difficult to read the book because everyone is so damn British “oh I say, it seems we are all going to die. More tea?”

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: ... Have you read "On the beach"?

                    I always found the hero murdering his infant daughter such an uplifting moment.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

              'Exchange' is a little much I think, it kinda has 'MAD' connotations from the cold war. North Korea has buried and exploded some nuclear devices. It's also fired a few rockets. That doesn't necessarily give it the ability to 'exchange' with the United States. Ask Yodel : delivery is the tricky bit. I'm not saying that 'we wouldn't get our hair mussed' but we are not talking about a 1983 style end of the world in an 'exchange' with North Korea. I'm also not seeing a lot of scope for escalation. No treaties, no friends. I'm betting on Vladimir not pressing his button for the Norks. He's got oil to sell. And the Chinese too : wipe out the West, and who are you going to sell stuff too.

              1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

                If the Norks managed to hit Guam with their tinpot missile and Trump responded in kind, then, yes, I'd consider that an exchange. No, it probably wouldn't escalate into a nuclear war (which is why I'm not particularly concerned about an On The Beach scenario) but I'd expect the Chinese to be very upset. Not nuke-the-US upset but certainly angry enough to spill blood.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

                  "I'd expect the Chinese to be very upset"

                  But with whom? Maybe with Kim.

                  1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                    Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

                    "I'd expect the Chinese to be very upset"

                    But with whom? Maybe with Kim.

                    Quite possibly. The thing is, it doesn't matter who starts a war, or who responds to whom, ordinary people on all sides will die. And while I dislike the North Korean regime I'd like ordinary North Koreans to be liberated not killed.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: ... the threat of a nuclear exchange between the US and North Korea

                The Chinese have put up with Fat Boy Kim and his daddy for years, but it's mostly been "tolerated" - remember the Norks are a creation of Stalin.

                The real threat that the chinese will be worried about is that of 11 million starving refugees heading north if the NK government collapses. That threat also seems to be one of the reasons they keep sending any escapees back (ie, KimBo saying "if you don't, we'll send a lot more")

                It's going to be interesting what happens with the latest round of UN embargoes. China cut off power and oil supplies for 4 months a few years back but resumed them when it was clear the Pyongyang kleptocracy was taking everything and letting the peasants starve/freeze to death. If there's a refugee wave as a result of these embargos they have legitimate cause to ask the world to help out.

        2. Michael Thibault

          Re: That's what they want you to believe

          The exchange -- even a volley -- doesn't have to be nuclear for wide-scale devastation to occur.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: That's what they want you to believe

          > "Trump doesn't want to win?"

          Not according to a new DC tell-all book by one Michael Wolff. Mostly leftist lies of course, but it's amusing to watch the media types try to claim Trump didn't really want to be President and colluded with Russia to achieve exactly that. Down the rabbit hole!

          1. Florida1920

            Re: That's what they want you to believe

            @Big John

            You seriously need to find better sources.

            President Trump didn’t want to win the presidential election because he thought, if he lost, his family would have bigger opportunities ahead, according to an excerpt from a new book detailing his first year in office.

            “This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” Trump told former head of Fox News Roger Ailes a week before the election, according to author Michael Wolff. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”

            http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-didnt-want-to-win-the-election-because-he-thought-losing-could-offer-untold-opportunities-book/article/2644849

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: That's what they want you to believe

              > "You seriously need to find better sources."

              Wait, you actually buy into this slander book? Can you believe six impossible things before breakfast too?

          2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: That's what they want you to believe

            Most people would deny ever having been for Trump, and be deply embarrassed about having him for president. Guess quite a few Americans are a bit different.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: That's what they want you to believe

              I admit there are a lot of easily led sheeple in the world. Are you admitting to being one of them?

  3. Rule of Thumb

    PsychOps?

    ... and if so, whose eyes does NRO not want on its bird?

    Anything's possible. Does anyone know the rate of "just plain doesn't work" problems in newly lofted satellites? You hear it happening but it seems rare and therefore unlikely.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The other type of PsychOps?

      As in, self sabotage to someone/thing they do not want. Say, getting insurance payment from SpaceX by launching a failed satellite?

      Though I do subscribe to attributing to error before malice (not instead of ;) ), so it could be a mess up with the satellite, and who wants to admit that before they retire?

    2. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: PsychOps?

      Anything's possible. Does anyone know the rate of "just plain doesn't work" problems in newly lofted satellites? You hear it happening but it seems rare and therefore unlikely.

      I don't know the rate, but it's certainly possible. Especially since the payload adaptor was apparently one of Northrop Grumman's design, not the standard SpaceX adaptor, which lends credence to the theory that the satellite didn't separate from S2 successfully (and it wouldn't be SpaceX's fault in this case).

      The other, very tin-foil hat option - given that this is an unusually tight-lipped mission (we normally know at least which agency a sat belongs to - but no one is claiming Zuma) is that the satellite performed an immediate cross-range burn after S2 separation to distance itself from the launch trajectory and the lenses of observers, allowing it to run around unnoticed. This would be extremely naughty since satellites - however classified - are supposed to be in declared orbits for the safety of manned vehicles (ISS, Tiangong) and to ensure they don't smash through someone else's satellite.

      This makes me think it's a US Navy project since they have form with throwing caution to the wind and turning off their anti-collision systems in busy shipping lanes...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PsychOps?

        The tinfoil hat explanation is actually pretty reasonable. It isn't uncommon for military birds to maneuver out of sight of the competition in order to conceal when and where they'll show up next, to make the job of hide-the-good-stuff-from-the-sats that much harder (The X-37 spent more than a year on orbit, and is very likely to have done that several times). That only works until their radar paints your bird and your orbital elements become known again, but surprise is a volatile item and boils away rapidly when you shine a light or a radar on it.

        Anon because Trump.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Anon because Trump.

          I suspected you were.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        turning off their anti-collision systems in busy shipping lanes...

        Ships are so big that you'll see them coming from a long way off. Throw in the Navy's advanced detection systems and collisions are just about impossible.

        Although I've seen some anecdotal evidence lately...........

  4. Bubba Von Braun
    Joke

    Stealth mode

    Given the high level of stealth on this flight. Hmm how to score this one.. I think a new column is required LTS = Lost in Space. or maybe it never happened, yes sir that was just Elon's late New Years firework..

    BvB

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Outside job

    It wasn't lost, it was taken.

    1. wallaby

      Re: Outside job

      Anyone want to buy one as new satellite ? never been used but no box (couldn't afford the sellotape) - will trade for beers

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Outside job

      Hang on.. . anyone checked if Branson has a thing for white cats? Or is that manic evil laughter coming from north Korea?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outside job

      Stop commenting and finish typing the ransom note.

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    It's in geosynchronous orbit over Nkaaaaaandla at the moment.

    Of course, it's a Zuma, what did you guys expect?

    1. Sceptic Tank Bronze badge

      Maybe "Zuma" was taken out by "Cyril".

      (Every day I wish I could read about the "apparent destruction of Zuma" in my local newspaper.)

      1. Scroticus Canis
        Unhappy

        Maybe "Zuma" was taken out by "Cyril".

        More likely just got a big backhander to send its data to the Guptas for onward sale.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Possibly a prolem for SX, possibly not.

    Depends on the contract.

    If it's a case of "We agree to get Zuma to orbital parameters <redacted>" and they have then job done. Everything else is down to Northrup Grumman.

    OTOH if they didn't, or there is an "on orbit handover" period (IIRC that's common for comm sats before they depart for GTO) things could be a bit whiffy for Musk & Co.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Terje

    Given that they congratulated sapcex on a successful launch I think it's safe to assume nothing major went wrong with the launch. and so it should be in more or less the correct orbit and It should therefore not have crashed down quite yet...

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Alien

    There is an extraterrestrial explanation for all this

    and here it is...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There is an extraterrestrial explanation for all this

      That's the question. Is it still extraterrestrial or has it gone back to being terrestrial?

  10. herman Silver badge

    W0t? Nobody even alluded that it is all Trump's fault?

    This must be the only forum on the intertubes with no US Liberal readers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry, Trump is too thick to be allowed anywhere near this sort of thing.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Don't worry, Trump is too thick to be allowed anywhere near this sort of thing.

        But...... but..... Kim is allowed visit the launch sites and actually gets a table and chair for him to sit and watch the launches.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Windows

      This is a brit forum, we tend to put you all in the same box of "uninformed yanks" regardless of politics.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        So how do you know if someone is this special kind of yank, unless they first express some moronic view on gun control, climate change, or being brown skinned (Obaka), or being "liberal"?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This used to be a Brit forum. But even tho quite a few of us are Yanks, the Brits do enjoy looking down their noses at us, and we're big enough to let them. ;-/

  11. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I bet a forced Windows 10 update caused it.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Pinky and the Brain?

      Of course Brain hijacked Zuma, but Pinky fudged up something (as usual)...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Pinky & The Brain

        I think, if you went back and looked, that Pinky was the genius. There was, in fact, an episode dedicated to the fact that brain was the one who screwed up most of the plans and that Pinky was the only one of the two to successfully take over(Brain of course screwed this up).

  12. Blotto Silver badge

    Probably the work of SPECTRE

    we need to send in 007 immediately to sort this out. He can use Q's new MELTDOWN tool delivered either by a code hidden on a music cassette or from some new fangled tech in bonds Omega smart analogue watch to infiltrate SPECTRE and stop them from their evil exploits.

    we need an Austin Powers icon, also will be interesting to know if NK knew about SPECTRE and MELTDOWN before the exploits where published.......

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

      You are sooo dated! Bond now relies on a Seiko digital watch with built-in laser! As seen on Moonraker, and, incidentally, a watch I used to own.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

        I'm still bitter, because the bastards had run out of their View to a Kill 007 digital watches, by the time I'd eaten enough Shredded Wheat for the tokens to get one. It was waterproof, played the theme tune in really cheesy beeps, with about ten different alarms and had cool red buttons.

        Back in the days when I thought digital watches were a really neat idea...

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

          Obviously not bitter enough. I've just remembered it was an Octopussy watch.

          Pop quiz, which is worst out of Moonraker Octopussy and View to a Kill?

          Poor old Moore needed a stuntman just to run up a flight of stairs by that point.

          1. Flakk

            Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

            The only bad thing about View to a Kill was that Bond stopped the destruction of Silicon Valley.

            Well, that and Tanya Roberts. Two... two things!

        2. CrazyOldCatMan

          Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

          I thought digital watches were a really neat idea

          Likewise. I had a (Timex? Casio?) red LED watch sometime in the late 70's or early 80's. The thing was, if you kept pushing the button to see the time (the display blanked after a couple of seconds), the battery life was somwhat similar to that of a modern Apple Watch.

          Progress eh?

          1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

            I had one of those - the battery died after about a week so it was taken back for a refund.

            Just imagine the havoc if everyone with an Apple watch did the same thing!

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Probably the work of SPECTRE

        As seen on Moonraker, and, incidentally, a watch I used to own.

        You had a laser watch? You're obviously a shark and I claim my 5 pounds.

  13. Mystic Megabyte

    ??

    I read somewhere that the launch was delayed due to problems with the satelite's shroud. Maybe Zuma is still in it's box.

  14. anothercynic Silver badge

    Just because the black-ops people didn't tell you it's ok...

    ... Doesn't mean it's not ok. It likely is.

    And even if Reuters claims it's crashed back down, unless *they* have a direct line to the NG/black-ops people, they *also* are just speculating.

  15. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    the 45th Space Wing?

    How big is a "Space Wing" that they have at least 45 of them?

    1. cray74

      Re: the 45th Space Wing?

      How big is a "Space Wing" that they have at least 45 of them?

      45? There's also a 460th Space Wing. A quick browse through the USAF Space Command org chart shows:

      The 460th Space Wing,

      The 233rd Space Group (Colorado Air National Guard),

      21st Space Wing,

      310th Space Wing,

      50th Space Wing,

      30th Space Wing,

      And two full Air Forces involved in the USAF Space Command:

      14th Air Force, and

      24th Air Force

      Reading all this just makes me realize I know very little about USAF organizational standards. I don't know a group from a wing; I don't know why there are the 21st, 30th, 50th, 310th, and 460th Space Wings, but not a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Space Wings; and I don't know why the USAF Space Command got tasked with running the USAF's IT department ("Air Force Informational Network," which I'm probably misunderstanding, too.) Much more reading to do...

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: the 45th Space Wing?

      > How big is a "Space Wing" that they have at least 45 of them?

      Don't forget US Military has a very liberal stance to numbering, to a point their numbers don't mean much. Take their tank models: In WW2 the model "M3" designated both a light tank (Stuart) and a medium tank (Lee) (Also a Scout Car, and a Half-track, but let's keep it simple). A platoon of "M3A1" could be as well a platoon of peashooters in a tin can, as a platoon of serious battle tanks...

      My point is, "45th" doesn't imply there are at least 45 of them. As cray74 showed, they give anything any number they like.

      1. AdamT

        Re: the 45th Space Wing?

        So cray74 is not necessarily the 74th cray then? Is that what you are saying?

        1. cray74

          Re: the 45th Space Wing?

          So cray74 is not necessarily the 74th cray then? Is that what you are saying?

          I'm not certain of the logic that resulted in the "74" suffix in my handle. In a prior millennium, I signed up for a Hotmail account while attempting to retain my dial-up BBS handle of "Cray" and was informed that plain "Cray" was taken. Since I was in a hurry to forward an amusing ASCII artwork message by that new-fangled internet email thing, I didn't bother exhaustively evaluating the availability of email addresses from cray1 to cray73 but rather immediately accepted Hotmail's suggested "cray74."

          I usually attempt to use "cray" when signing up in internet forums but when that isn't available I next try "cray74." After 20+ years of usage, "cray74" is easy for me to remember even if I don't know the algorithm that appended the 74 suffix to "cray."

          Therefore, I cannot say for certain that cray74 is or isn't the 74th cray, and the answer to your first question is, "Yes." The answer to the second question is also "yes."

      2. CrazyOldCatMan

        Re: the 45th Space Wing?

        A platoon of "M3A1" could be as well a platoon of peashooters in a tin can, as a platoon of serious battle tanks

        WW2 US[1] tanks were very much a case of quantity over quality. Who cares if you lose 10 Sherman tanks in order to kill one Tiger 2? We had thousands of the things and the Germans only had hundreds of theirs.

        Bit of a bummer for the tank crews though.

        Things did improve later (mostly post-Normandy landings) though.

        [1] British tanks were not much better - you had the 'really heavy armour but only a peashooter of a main gun[1a]" ones that could barely manage 15mph or the "no real armour and a peashooter of a gun" ones. The best[2] UK tanks were made by taking some of the US designs and putting a BFG on them so that they actually had a chance of shooting back at the panzers..

        [1a] As in the Matilda tanks.

        [2] This is, of course, like every Internet comment, a gross oversimplification.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: the 45th Space Wing?

          Also proof if you throw enough stuff at something (including shells) something eventually works and you turn a "Tommy Cooker" into a Sherman Firefly.

        2. Jonathan Schwatrz
          Stop

          Re: CrazyOldCatMan Re: the 45th Space Wing?

          ".....WW2 US[1] tanks were very much a case of quantity over quality.....We had thousands of the things and the Germans only had hundreds of theirs....." Once again, for the hard of reading, the most common tank met by British and US tanks in the European Campaign was the Panzer MkIV, not the Panther, the Tiger nor the Tiger II. The Sherman was just as good as the Panzer IV and superior in some respects (sloped front armour for a start), and the ROQF 75mm-armed British tanks like the Churchill and Cromwell had few problems dealing with the Panzer IV as well. The British switched to the ROQF 75mm to gain better HE performance, not for hole-punching, as HE was becoming more important than AP. HE was more important as the majority of British and Yank tank losses from Alamein onwards were to anti-tank guns, not German tanks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How big is a "Space Wing" that they have at least 45 of them?

      Hopefully not as big as the wing-shaped space thing I saw in the latest Star Wars film...

  16. david 136

    "Billion" dollar Zuma?

    May reports say the payload was a billion dollar expense, with no source for that figure. Anybody heard where that came from?

    1. PNGuinn
      WTF?

      Re: "Billion" dollar Zuma?

      "May reports say the payload was a billion dollar expense, with no source for that figure. Anybody heard where that came from?"

      Bean counter, natch.

      Do keep up.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "nominally"

    What does working "nominally" mean - that they made up numbers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "nominally"

      It means "within expected bounds of operation".

      Some adjective that got repurposed in the 60s probably.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "nominally"

        So it fucked up, but they are trying to spin it?

        I just wish these PR people would learn to speak Oxbridge English or Standard French/German/Tajik so we could understand what they meant.

  18. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Joke

    Does it matter?

    Seriously, there's so much junk up there right now that eventually we won't be able to launch anything without the sky turning into a massive game of snooker.

    1. bpfh

      Re: Does it matter?

      Don’t the yanks have an X-37 to recover that sort of thing or is it so bloody big that it’s only coming down under Newton’s gracious auspices?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I found it!

    Its in a deep polar orbit in the South Pacific.

    Probably carrying out a detailed ocean mapping mission.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuma_(satellite)

    No evidence or credible official statement for payload failure exists (above citations link to rumours not actual official statements). Zuma appears on SatCat as active and operational, therefore payload is likely successful. https://www.celestrak.com/pub/satcat.txt

    down for me right now, even though https://www.computerhope.com/cgi-bin/isitup.cgi says it's up !

    "Mmmm ... I do love the smell of a fresh conspiracy in the morning !"

  21. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Now in a stable orbit...

    ...on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

  22. T. OKC

    Big John---"And now we learn that he didn't even want to win!"

    If that's the case, why did he "colude" with the Russians to steal the election from hillary?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its NOT a satellite

    It's a drone with retractable solar panels and a high powered white laser, for taking out targets. You'll find out soon enough.

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