Operation Zuma: SpaceX to Launch Mystery Payload

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

Federal regulatory filings indicate SpaceX plans to launch a mysterious payload as early as Nov. 10 in a previously-undisclosed mission.

It is unusual for such a mission to remain secret so close to launch, and there has been no public claim of ownership for the payload — codenamed Zuma — from any government or commercial institution.

SpaceX did not respond to questions on the mission Saturday, but an application submitted by the launch company to the Federal Communications Commission says the flight will use a Falcon 9 booster launched from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The existence of the mission was first reported on NASASpaceflight.com Saturday, but the FCC filings are public record….

Two filings concern the secretive launch next month, one for the Falcon 9’s liftoff and climb into orbit from Florida’s Space Coast, and another for the first stage booster’s planned return to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for refurbishment and reuse.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon 9 a total of 15 times in 2017. Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule shows that SpaceX has five more flights scheduled for this year, not including the Zuma mission. Below is the schedule with the Zuma flight included.

Remaining SpaceX Launches for 2017

10/30/17: Falcon 9 — Koreasat 5A — KSC
11/10/17: Falcon 9 — Zuma — KSC
Late November: Falcon 9 — Iridum Next 31-40 — Vandenberg
11/28/17: Falcon 9 — CRS-13 — CCAFS
4th Quarter: Falcon 9 — Hispasat 30W-6 — CCAFS
Late 2017: Falcon Heavy Demo Flight — KSC

  • therealdmt

    Cool; secret mission!

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Falcon has really spread it’s wings this year. This launch will be yet another notch in the checklist for Falcon to be a responsive space launcher per the definition.

  • Pasi Jokela


    (UPDATE: NASASpaceflight.com has confirmed that Northrop Grumman is the payload provider for Zuma through a commercial launch contract with SpaceX for a LEO satellite with a mission type labeled as “government” and a needed launch date range of 1-30 November 2017.)

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Maybe Zuma is a surveillance satellite using a commercial bus.

    Do we know of any military or spooky LEO Earth surveillance satellite that have a drastic capability degradation lately?

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Yes, there can be no argument this was “responsive” unlike X-37B which would have been planned for a while.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    The elephant in the room is that NG went to SpaceX and not ULA for a critical black program on a time crunch. One of the only things left in ULAs marketing is the on-time nature of their launches. I’ve noticed though an escalation of technical scrubs on ULA and the ability to re-fly cores means SpaceX has a lot more schedule flexibility. They can even push new core to demanding customer and move another launch to used core. This is extremely powerful scheduling capability without massively increasing your factory size or output. And this is just the beginning. Once mature, they will have massive schedule flexibility with two pads and used boosters/fairings.

  • Bill Douglass


  • duheagle

    That’s not today’s password! He’s a spy! Shoot him!