SpaceX successfully launches secret satellite after weeks-long delay

1_3_Falcon 9

All that is publicly known about the Zuma payload is that it is a satellite manufactured for the United States government by Northrop Grumman, and it is bound for low-Earth orbit.

The launch window opens at 8 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. This makes sense given that the relatively low orbit would SpaceX to bring the Falcon 9 first stage in for a landing back on land, rather than a drone ship at sea.

It's still unclear where the Zuma mission will be heading.

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The Zuma launch was initially planned for November, but was delayed due to issues with the fairing, which houses the payload on its way to being deployed into orbit around Earth.

The deployment of the satellite was followed by the successful landing of the Falcon 9 first stage at the nearby landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

But now conditions for the mysterious mission are 80-percent go, weather-wise, in Florida.

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After launch, SpaceX returned the tall portion of the Falcon 9 rocket to an upright landing at Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX has previously launched a pair of national security-related missions, a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office and the robotic X-37B space plane for the U.S. Air Force.

The webcast of the launch did not follow the second stage carrying the payload after it separated from the first stage. Aside from its name, little is known about the payload. SpaceX is expected to cut off its popular live stream early to hide the spacecraft's final destination. The Zuma payload was built by Northrop Grumman for the US government, but additional information about the satellite is not available. But Sunday's launch is perhaps the company's most secretive yet.

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