SpaceX conducts rehearsal for classified Zuma launch
After being rescheduled twice, once in late 2017 due to an issue with the Falcon 9 fairing, and once this month due to cold weather in Florida—SpaceX conducted a “wet” dress rehearsal (WDR) for the Zuma mission today (Wednesday Jan. 3), according to a report on NASASpaceflight.com.
A WDR means that the rehearsal included a fueled launch vehicle as part of the practice countdown. The Falcon 9 is currently scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 this Friday, between 7:55 and 10:37 p.m. Eastern Time (00:55-0337 Zulu, per Patrick Air Force Base).
As far as can be determined, no specific agency has laid claim to the Zuma payload, and SpaceX has been unnaturally quiet about sharing any details about its customer, the payload, or even its launch date. At present, it is not even listed on the SpaceX launch manifest. Florida Today has reported that the payload was contracted for by Northrop Grumman.
Amateur space observers told Florida Today that Zuma’s launch trajectory, which should head off to the northeast, is unusual and resembles a trajectory taken by a National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft, NROL-76, which eventually traveled within four miles of the International Space Station.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.