Another SpaceX launch will happen Wednesday night – but no one in the general public can know what’s on the rocket. The launch, first reported by Space.com, will be carrying something provided by defense and aerospace company Northrop Grumman. Whatever that something is, however, is secret. The only details anyone has been able to get from the company is that the payload is “restricted” and it’s for the U.S. government. Naturally, “SpaceX is launching a secret satellite” has set off a bunch of weird doomsday conspiracy theories.
If the Zuma launch goes well, it will mark SpaceX's 17th launch of 2017. If the landing goes off without a hitch, it will be the company's 20th overall successful landing. This includes landings on drone ships at sea as well as on land. Very little is known about the Zuma mission, as no government or commercial entity has claimed it.
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.”
“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.”
This is actually not the first time SpaceX has sent something secret into space for the U.S. government. In May, a Falcon 9 rocket delivered something for the National Reconnaissance Office, according to the company’s launch schedule.
For a super-secret payload, it had a pretty big audience. There was a live webcast of that May launch, which had over 1.7 million views as of Tuesday night.