SpaceX Zuma Launch

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  • SpaceX Zuma Launch

    Did SpaceX just lose a secret U.S. spy satellite?


  • #2
    The cynic in me suggests this could simply be a smokescreen for a successful spy satellite launch.

    Of course, the major powers probably have the technology to detect it anyway unless it was a "stealth" design (difficult if you have antennas deployed, but not impossible if they retract internally between transmissions.)
    Tom Tyson-A&P

    Pilots without Mechanics are just Pedestrians with fancy watches . . .
    ( . . . and Mechanics without Pilots are Unemployed.)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mike Overly View Post
      Mike -- For a payload like this, I wonder if there is some division of responsibility in the contract between the govt and the contractor that would have the govt responsible for payload separation from the booster and final insertion in orbit.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mike Overly View Post
        From watching the launch, everything looked good through 2nd stage ignition, when they stopped showing what was happening due to security requirements. They also had a successful first stage landing.

        I think that headline - giving what was publicly known casts aspersions on SpaceX that might not be deserved. For all we know, it got to orbit and separated, and failed after that.

        The article is more even-handed.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Scott Dyer HPN/NY View Post

          Mike -- For a payload like this, I wonder if there is some division of responsibility in the contract between the govt and the contractor that would have the govt responsible for payload separation from the booster and final insertion in orbit.
          The secrecy status appears to be competing with the high value of the payload in the battle for hearts and minds among those in-the-know. This article states Northrup Grumman was responsible for separation. (Whiffs of airline code-sharing fail/blame handoffs here).

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          • #6
            Tom, ain't hardly no way to hide in orbit. You can encrypt the data you send down, but that's about it.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Ralph Jones View Post
              Tom, ain't hardly no way to hide in orbit. You can encrypt the data you send down, but that's about it.
              Really? I would think a black, radar stelthy object on a changed orbital path might be hard to find in the first place,

              Hypothetically, I would think a 2m carbon fiber sphere might not give much of a reflection, and if you could orient a more stelthy shape toward a known high power radar tracking site, it might be even lower.

              Just black skying here.

              - TT
              Tom Tyson-A&P

              Pilots without Mechanics are just Pedestrians with fancy watches . . .
              ( . . . and Mechanics without Pilots are Unemployed.)

              Comment


              • #8
                It has to collect some kind of data, some way, and it has to get data down to its user, some way. Neither requirement is conducive to hiding.

                If Oceania can't see it, neither can Eastasia...;-)

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                • #9
                  Just sayin'.

                  I'm a retired airplane mechanic, not a spacecraft designer. But radar absorbent material is well understood and retractable antennas are straight forward to design and build. I have no idea what the radar cross section of a big lens is, but if the spyee doesn't know where to look in the first place, detecting an orbital agile object could be a challenge for them, even if they are banging away with some monster radar station.

                  Pure speculation for a snowy morning, a little "Blue Skying" if you will over a cuppa Joe.

                  - TT
                  Tom Tyson-A&P

                  Pilots without Mechanics are just Pedestrians with fancy watches . . .
                  ( . . . and Mechanics without Pilots are Unemployed.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tom Tyson View Post
                    radar absorbent material is well understood
                    Back in the 70s, Car and Driver did some articles about police radar. And in the process, they decided to make a radar invisible Porsche 911. They visited some suppliers in the LA area and got RA paint and foam sheets.

                    I am reading the article, and said to myself, "Self, we have a stealth airplane in operation."

                    I figured, if this stuff was available to anyone, it was old hat to people like Lockheed Skunk Works.

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                    • #11
                      Based on published data it seems in the arena of tactical real time surveillance there is much to be gained to knowing when the "big eye" is overhead so you can time an activity so as to hide what is happening. There are credible stories out there ("Blind Man's Bluff" - Sherry Sontag & Christopher Drew is one) about an "all hands" scramble to get a damaged boomer into a dry dock and then covered with a huge tarp painted to look like the empty dry dock during the time window when a spy-sat was not overhead.

                      That shiny new satellite may be a smoking cinder somewhere in the Sudan, but then again . . .

                      - TT
                      Last edited by Tom Tyson; 01-12-2018, 08:42.
                      Tom Tyson-A&P

                      Pilots without Mechanics are just Pedestrians with fancy watches . . .
                      ( . . . and Mechanics without Pilots are Unemployed.)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Scott Dyer HPN/NY View Post
                        Mike -- For a payload like this, I wonder if there is some division of responsibility in the contract between the govt and the contractor that would have the govt responsible for payload separation from the booster and final insertion in orbit.
                        [/quote]Hi Scott,

                        From this website:
                        A major SpaceX customer spoke up for Elon Musk’s rocket company, pinning the blame for a secret military satellite’s disappearance on defense company Northrop Grumman.

                        Matt Desch, chief executive officer of satellite operator Iridium Communications (irdm, +1.65%), said that as the launch contractor, Northrop Grumman (noc, +1.62%) deserves the blame for the loss last weekend of the satellite, which is presumed to have crashed into the ocean in the secretive mission code-named Zuma. . . . “SpaceX didn’t have a failure, Northrop Grumman did."
                        So apparently Northrop Grumman built the interface fixture that was to support and release the payload.

                        If spacex was responsible, all upcoming spacex launches would be on hold pending further investigation. So far no, indication of that.

                        Regards,
                        Tom Charlton (who’s excitedly anticipating the upcoming launch of the triple core F9 Heavy!)
                        "The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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                        • #13
                          So apparently Northrop Grumman built the interface fixture that was to support and release the payload.[/QUOTE]

                          Thanks for mentioning that, Tom.

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