On Sunday night, SpaceX launched a classified payload known only as “Zuma” for the US government. But once in space, something went wrong. Here’s what we know so far.
What is Zuma?
It was a government satellite or spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman, which contracted with SpaceX to launch it into low-Earth orbit. By various accounts, this was a hugely valuable asset, potentially worth a billion dollars or more. (SpaceX founder Elon Musk reportedly told some of his employees it was the most important thing the company had ever launched). There has also been a huge amount of secrecy around the launch, even more so than with typical national security payloads, to the point that the government agency paying for and using it have not been disclosed.