Now that privately-owned aerospace firms are refining and researching new state-of-the-art rocket technologies, we can expect all sorts of new levels of intrigue and secrecy surrounding space flight. Publicly-funded NASA and other government agencies have to (allegedly) disclose certain amounts of information to the public, but commercial space firms have no such obligation. The undisputed leader in private spaceflight, SpaceX, is no stranger to secrets and conspiracy theories. Elon Musk’s revolutionary company has taken that secrecy even deeper this month with the under-the-radar addition of a shadowy rocket mission under the code name “Zuma.”
The secretive SpaceX mission was noticed by aerospace watchdog site NASASpaceFlight.com which tracks commercial and government launches. The site noticed a last-minute change to SpaceX’s launch schedule for November, adding a mission numbered 1390 with the code name Zuma. Whatever the Zuma payload is, it be launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the LC-39A launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket will then perform a RTLS (Return To Launch Site) landing at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral after delivering its mysterious payload.
The only information available to the public concerning the Zuma launch is that the payload belongs to American aerospace and defense corporation Northrop Grumman and is labelled as governmental in nature. Some speculate that this could be what’s known as a “black commercial” mission, a type of shadowy joint project between private commercial firms and government agencies. The payload is likely some new type of reconnaissance satellite, but with all of the weirdness going on in space and new focus on space warfare, there’s no telling what Northrop Grumman might be launching.