The latest launch in SpaceX’s busy flight schedule remains shrouded in mystery, although some details have emerged.
Elon Musk’s company will launch its signature Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday morning, November 16 during a 1am to 3am GMT (8pm to 10pm EST on Wednesday November 15) time window.
The Falcon 9 will set off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a secret mission to deliver Zuma into orbit.
Unlike other SpaceX launches, tomorrow’s flight will not be live streamed over the internet.
Global aerospace and defence company Northrop Grumman said it selected SpaceX for this mission.
Lon Rains, communications director at Northrop Grumman’s Space Systems Division, said: “Northrop Grumman is proud to be a part of the Zuma launch. This event represents a cost effective approach to space access for government missions.
We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX
“The US Government assigned Northrop Grumman the responsibility of acquiring launch services for this mission. We have procured the Falcon 9 launch service from SpaceX.
“As a company, Northrop Grumman realizes that this is monumental responsibility and have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.
“The Zuma payload is a restricted payload. It will be launched into Low Earth Orbit.”
A Federal Communications Commission application, filed by SpaceX, points out that the first stage recovery of the Falcon 9 rocket will take place at Port Canaveral, in Florida.
Falcon 9: SpaceX’s signature rocket will launch from Florida
This means that once the rocket completes the first stage of its journey, it will fly back down to Earth and land on an onshore station rather than SpaceX’s floating drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, in the Atlantic Ocean.
This could suggest that the Zuma payload is relatively lightweight compared to other satellite launched during previous missions.
On Tuesday, SpaceX confirmed a successful static fire test of its commercial rocket at the Florida-based Nasa Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX tweeted: “Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete—targeting November 15 launch of Zuma from Pad 39A in Florida.”
Later in November the very same launch pad will be used to launch the three-stage Falcon Heavy rocket on its maiden voyage.
The 230-foot-tall rocket boasts 27 engines, and is designed to deliver much heavier payloads into higher orbits.
On October 30, SpaceX successfully launched a South Korean communications satellite known as the Koreasat-5A.
SpaceX said: “As a replacement for Koreasat-5, Koreasat-5A will expand KT SAT’s coverage across Asia and the Middle East.
“Unlike other satellites in the Koreasat fleet, Koreasat-5A will provide maritime coverage of the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and East China Sea.”