The space community has not learned much about the apparent loss of the Zuma payload launched by SpaceX on January 7, but the mystery has had an obvious effect: critics of SpaceX, including many publications right wing, has weaponized the failure of a national security. The satellite they continue to pay has died on the house.
For example Federalistwe publish it defend the dating habits of Alabama Judge Roy Moore in his Senate campaign, limit about the accident, “It is about, to say the least, the American taxpayers have become a guinea pig that will take risks and money before the final decision can be made.” The Conservatives Washington Times also publish an important article, note that“Taxpayers are tired of being ripped off.”
These articles are written by individuals who clearly have little knowledge of the aerospace industry. Them Federalist The author lists, among his qualifications, that he “helped the 2014 freshmen Republican class to set up the office.” Them Term Author notes on his LinkedIn profile that it is a “professional integration title.”
Ars has previously reported on a shadowy, far-right campaign to cast doubt on SpaceX’s credibility. This past summer, those efforts focused on a federal budget measure, known as the National Security Authorization Act of 2018. At the time it was not entirely clear who was behind the campaign.
Now, at least one of the post-Zuma protests may be linked to SpaceX’s competitors in the launch industry: Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the parent companies of the United Launch Alliance. We soon thought article inside Forbes raised similar concerns about SpaceX’s reliability under the heading of “doubts.” This is written by Loren Thompson, chief executive officer of The Lexington Institute, which income derived from contributions by Lockheed, Boeing, and other major defense companies.
Thompson’s article appears to be in coordination with a hearing on commercial aviation this week in the US House. While many representatives asked good, investigative questions about the delays in the commercial crew program-attempts by Boeing and SpaceX to build a plane to carry astronauts to the International Space Station — Congressman Mo Brooks was an exception.
Brooks represents the northern tier of Alabama, including the Decatur area where United Launch Alliance builds its rockets. When hearing, Brooks said, “I’ll read from a memo published earlier this week, entitled ‘Doubt about SpaceX’s reliability continues as astronaut missions near;’ it is inside Forbes Journal.
It is absolutely true that SpaceX suffered two catastrophic failures with its Falcon 9 rocket—one in 2015 about two minutes into the launch of a mission to the ISS and the second in 2016 with an accident on the launch pad. The company says it has learned from these failures and indeed, in 2017, made 18 successful launches.
With regard to Zuma, the company has denied any failure with the performance of its Falcon 9 rocket. Beyond that, SpaceX’s actions indicate confidence, too. It could fire up its new Falcon Heavy rocket as soon as Saturday on its Florida launch pad, and it’s pressing ahead with future launches. The customer for SpaceX’s next commercial launch later this month, SES, expressed full confidence in the rocket company.
“Following the Zuma mission, our technical staff has reviewed all relevant launch vehicle data following the last Falcon-9 launch,” the satellite company said. tweeted this week. “We’re confident on SpaceX’s readiness & schedule for Govsat-1 launch late Jan!”
In conclusion, it seems unlikely that SpaceX will make such definitive statements about its rocket, and tell the same customers, if it has serious questions about the performance of the Falcon 9. This will, in effect, be a veil and that almost certainly causes lasting, long-term damage to your reputation as a reliable launch supplier—much more than admitting to an accident.
If SpaceX did not actually make a mistake, which seems likely, a full recovery for Zuma will only be possible through one of two ways. The manufacturer of the payload adapter, Northrop Grumman, may admit a mistake. (The company has not commented). Alternatively, the US government may announce the reason for the failure. (Until now, the Pentagon will not even admit that there is a failure of Zuma). Neither seems likely in the near term, if ever.
The uncertainty behind Zuma, therefore, has given fertile ground for critics of SpaceX to return after the success of the company in 2017. At this time, its commercial satellite customers seem content. NASA, too, is pressing forward with efforts to certify the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft for flights later this year or early 2019. As for how the US national security agency really feels, we may won’t know that until the next episode. A couple of defense launch competitions are announced.