A top-secret multi-billion dollar U.S. spy satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday reportedly failed to separate from the upper stage of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and never reached orbit.
The technology website Ars Technica cites one source as saying the "the payload fell back to Earth along with the spent upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket."
The satellite, code-named Zuma, appears to be "a write-off," according to a source quoted by Reuters.
During Sunday's launch, SpaceX initially broadcast ground control communications, but switched it off several minutes into the flight, citing the secret nature of the payload. Speaking on Monday, SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson appeared to be sticking with the commercial space-launch service's initial assessment of the launch: "We do not comment on missions of this nature; but as of right now reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally."
Northrup Grumman, the manufacturer of Zuma, also declined to comment. The Falls Church, Va., based defense contractor built Zuma and was responsible for choosing SpaceX to launch it, according to sources quoted in The Wall Street Journal.