The Wall Street Journal quotes unidentified congressional officials who were briefed on the mission as saying the satellite apparently did not separate from the second stage, and plunged through the atmosphere and burned up.
The pinpoint landing of Falcon's booster marks the 21st time that SpaceX has successfully completed the pioneering maneuver, which recovers for reuse a costly part of the rocket that traditionally is expended during launch. It was originally scheduled for static fire Thursday.
While it appeared that the launch went off without a hitch, the full launch and separation of the nose cone, which surrounded the secret satellite, was not streamed as it normally is, due to the classified nature of the mission.
However, cameras did not follow stage two of the rocket, and reports suggest Zuma may not have reached its final orbit.
Northrop Grumman Corp, the company which made the satellite (and also selected SpaceX for the launch) refused to comment since all the information related to it is classified. However, the agency confirmed that the Falcon 9 performed as it was supposed to after going through the data review of the mission.
Bloomberg, citing a US official and two congressional aides familiar with the launch, that the Falcon 9's second-stage booster section failed.
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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. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. No further requests for communication were entertained by the company regarding the mission.
Workers at the center have been told to expect a 12-second test-firing of the rocket's 27 engines.
On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years.
Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launches.
The company has been preparing to launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket, which is made up of three Falcon 9 engine cores.
All eyes will turn to the first launch, in late January, of SpaceX's, which would become the most powerful operational rocket in the world, carrying twice as much as its nearest competitor, the Delta IV Heavy.