SpaceX Is Launching the Secret Zuma Mission Friday: Watch It Live!

A file photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket atop Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will launch the secret Zuma mission for the U.S. government on Nov. 16, 2017.
A file photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket atop Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX will launch the secret Zuma mission for the U.S. government on Nov. 16, 2017. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Editor's note: SpaceX has delayed the Zuma launch to Friday (Nov. 17). You can read our latest story here: SpaceX Launch of Mysterious Zuma Spacecraft Delayed Until Friday

Our earlier story is below:

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch what just might be the company's most mysterious payload yet tonight (Nov. 16) — the secret Zuma mission for the U.S. government — and you can watch it live online.

SpaceX will launch the Zuma payload tonight from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a two-hour launch window that opens at 8 p.m. EST (0100 Nov. 17 GMT). SpaceX representatives have not announced an exact time for the launch, nor the exact nature of the Zuma mission, though the company did delay the launch by 24 hours Wednesday. [SpaceX's Secret Zuma Mission: What We Know

You can watch the Zuma launch live, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff (7:45 p.m. EST for an 8 p.m. EST launch target). You can also watch it directly from SpaceX's live webcast page here.

If SpaceX is unable to launch the Zuma mission Thursday night, the company does have a backup launch window on Friday night (Nov. 17).

The mission emblem for SpaceX's launch of the secret Zuma payload on Nov. 16, 2017. (Image credit: SpaceX)

We know few details about the Zuma launch, and what little we do know comes from a representative with Northrop Grumman, the aerospace company that arranged the payload's launch for the U.S. government on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

According to Lon Rains, communications director for Northrop Grumman's space systems division, Zuma will be launched into a low-Earth orbit.

"The Zuma payload is a restricted payload." Rains said in a statement. "Northrop Grumman is proud to be part of the Zuma launch. The event represents a cost-effective approach to space access for government missions."

According to a mission description posted online Wednesday (Nov. 15), SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used in tonight's launch at Landing Zone 1, a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near the company's Pad 39A launch site. That landing should occur about 7 minutes and 51 seconds after liftoff, SpaceX representatives wrote.

The Zuma launch will mark SpaceX's 17th mission of 2017 and the company's third classified flight this year. In May, SpaceX launched the NROL-76 spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office and followed that with the Sept. 7 launch of an uncrewed X-37B space plane on the OTV-5 mission for the U.S. Air Force.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.