SpaceX is scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Kennedy Space Center this evening, carrying a secretive US government payload known as "Zuma" to low-Earth orbit. About all we know is that contractor and manufacturer Northrop Grumman booked the launch on behalf of the federal government.
According to Space.com, the launch will involve a re-entry attempt by the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral's Landing Zone 1 - SpaceX has pulled off 20 such re-entries previously.
SpaceX lofted the super-secret Zuma spacecraft for the US government tonight (Jan. 8), successfully executing a mission that also featured yet another landing by the first stage of the company's Falcon 9 rocket.
"Everybody involved with the mission is pretty tight-lipped about it", Space.com reported a year ago. That would place Zuma near the others once in orbit, perhaps not by coincidence.
These landings are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully reusable rockets and spacecraft - technology that company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said will slash the cost of spaceflight. The launch had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week's "extreme weather" on the East Coast contributing to the most recent delay.
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CEO Elon Musk says the heavy-lift launcher's debut test flight - carrying his own Tesla Roadster sports vehicle into space - is possible from KSC before the end of this month. Zuma will be the first before the company premiers its new Falcon Heavy rocket, sometime later in January.
The booster's two stages separated 2 minutes and 19 seconds into flight.
The rocket, carrying its secret payload called "Zuma", lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
The 45th Space Wing on Tuesday is scheduled to deliver its year-ahead forecast of local launch activity to the National Space Club Florida Committee.