Of course it wasn’t Elon’s fault - nothing ever is.
Less than a week after SpaceX’s failure to launch the mysterious Zuma satellite into orbit - the payload, which presumably cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to develop, failed to separate properly from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was carrying it - a major customer of SpaceX, Musk’s space-oriented venture that has essentially become a successor to NASA, defended the company, speculated that the blame for the failure lay not with Musk, but with the hacks over at longtime defense contractor Northrop Grumman.
A major SpaceX customer spoke up for Elon Musk’s rocket company, pinning the blame for a secret military satellite’s disappearance on defense company Northrop Grumman Corp.
Matt Desch, chief executive officer of satellite operator Iridium Communications Inc., said that as the launch contractor, Northrop Grumman deserves the blame for the loss last weekend of the satellite, which is presumed to have crashed into the ocean in the secretive mission code-named Zuma.
“This is a typical industry smear job on the ‘upstart’ trying to disrupt the launch industry,” Desch said on Twitter Thursday in response to a news article. "SpaceX didn’t have a failure, Northrop Grumman did. Notice that no one in the media is interested in that story. SpaceX will pay the price as the one some will try to bring low."
As we reported ahead of the launch, which was repeatedly delayed with only a vague explanation, many of the details about Zuma’s provenance and purpose remain a mystery. The job the satellite was intended to perform and even the identity of the US agency that contracted the satellite aren’t known.
News of the launch failure didn’t surface until days later, when the WSJ reported it, though the paper admits that the paucity of details surrounding what happened means there could be alternative explanations to the “failure to separate” narrative mentioned above. But given Musk's penchant for spin, this hardly registers as suspicious or surprising.
On his twitter feed, Musk suggested that the launch had been a success, posting a picture of the rocket’s launch and reentry. Though apparently its precious cargo is believed to have plunged into the Ocean and has not yet been recovered.
Northrop Grumman’s comms department didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment, and the company has yet to respond to the allegations. Iridium executive Desch later told Bloomberg in a message that he didn’t know for sure what led to the disappearance but was speculating that a dispenser failed to release the satellite, which he said would have been Northrop Grumman’s responsibility.
In summary, Desch’s tacitly admits that his conclusion is based, at least in part, on speculation. Given the federal government’s silence thus far, it’s likely an official explanation for the failure will never be released, despite the incredible waste of taxpayer money that this failure represents.