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SpaceX rocket satellite 'CRASHED into Indian Ocean in botched mission'

12 January 2018

Adding to the mystery, the satellite, categorized as United States of America 280, was still listed as a payload on orbit by the US space surveillance system as of Tuesday afternoon, said Laura Grego, a Caltech-trained physicist who is a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The highly classified and expensive government satellite launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral has reportedly been destroyed.

For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night.

For its part, SpaceX seems to be shifting the blame away from itself, and said in a statement, "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally".

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Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, said it was for the USA government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

Northrop Grumman - which provided the satellite for an undisclosed US government entity - said it can not comment on classified missions. The media did credit the source of information to an anonymous U.S. government official confirming the failure of the mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket was able to make a successful powered landing back on the ground after separating from the upper stage. "Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false".

SpaceX is the commercial launch service formed by Elon Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla.

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SpaceX has pushed back an historic test of the Falcon Heavy, the world's largest rocket.

SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force. Last year, SpaceX completed 18 launches.

Teams will watch closely as the three-core launch vehicle is loaded with propellant at pad 39A on Thursday, then briefly fire its 27 Merlin engines for the first time.

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SpaceX rocket satellite 'CRASHED into Indian Ocean in botched mission'