SpaceX launched a top-secret US government payload, codenamed "Zuma", on Sunday, 8 January, late in the night using one of its Falcon 9 rockets.
Reports have now emerged claiming that the satellite is lost in space, but it being a secret mission, it is unlikely that the truth will ever be revealed.
SpaceX shared a series of tweets and a video saying that the launch was successful. However, experts have claimed that after separation, the satellite was lost in space, the Daily Mail reports. The paper quoted a series of tweets by Peter B de Selding, of Space Intel Report, claiming that Zuma "may be dead in orbit after separation". "Info blackout renders any conclusion - launcher issue? Satellite-only issue? - impossible to draw."
The launch was not livestreamed by SpaceX as is the custom, but videos were later shared on its website. Selding also quoted James Gleeson, Sr Manager, Communications, at SpaceX, in one of his tweets. "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally."
Amid these reports, a rumour doing the rounds claimed that Zuma was not lost in space, but fell back to Earth. "According to one source, the payload fell back to Earth along with the spent upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket," Ars Technica's Eric Berger wrote.
Space.com reported that when asked about the rumours of failure, Northrop Grumman spokesman Lon Rains said via email: "This is a classified mission. We cannot comment on classified missions." The same response that Selding received from SpaceX was also given to Space.com when they asked the space company about the launch.
The project has been shrouded in mystery since it was first announced in October. The launch was scheduled for November, but after several delays, it finally took to space this week. All that is known about the actual payload is that it was made and delivered to SpaceX by Northrop Grumman, a well-known defence contractor for the US government.
Zuma's orbit was supposedly set at 1,200 miles, or low-Earth orbit, and what actually happened to the satellite is something that might never be revealed. For all one knows, it might have gone just as planned and it might have started its proposed national security mission.
IBTimes UK could not independently verify any of the claims.