ZUMA (Falcon 9)
7 January 2018
Space Launch Complex 40
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Delayed from November 2017 due to an issue with the fairing, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket finally launched Northrop Grumman’s ZUMA spacecraft at 8:00 p.m. on 7 January 2018 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mystery spacecraft, whose unknown purpose is classified and with ownership unclaimed by any government agency at the time of this writing but presumed to be some variety of spy satellite, appeared to suffer some sort of mishap. Speculation is the satellite failed to separate from the second stage and reentered the atmosphere and crashed into the ocean or is dead in orbit due to a mechanical failure. Because of the classified nature of the mission there is no official word on what happened though SpaceX is denying any responsibility for any possible problem. SpaceX successfully landed the first stage back at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station approximately eight minutes after launch.
Searchlights shooting up into the clouds mark the location of Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in this wide angle view.
Liftoff at 8:00 p.m. from SLC-40!
Separation of the first and second stage created a surreal multicolored light show of intermixing exhaust gasses in the night sky as the two stages maneuvered away from each other. The second stage to continue carrying the ZUMA spacecraft into orbit and the first stage maneuvering to land back at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In this and the following images, the upper point of light is the first stage booster navigating back for its landing at LZ-1 while the lower point of light is the second stage burning its way into orbit.
The colorful gasses dissipate leaving only the first stage visible as the second stage has moved farther downrange.
Three views of the first stage entry burn.
Alas, things went awry with the camera during the first stage landing at LZ-1 about eight minutes after launch when the focus drifted making for some blurry images but, to give the sequence closure, I am posting them anyway as a way to spark the learning curve.
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