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SpaceX Delays Mysterious Zuma Spacecraft Launch to Sunday
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the secretive Zuma spacecraft is seen at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in November 2017. The mission will now launch on Jan. 7, 2018.
Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has pushed back the launch of the mysterious Zuma spacecraftfor the U.S. government to no earlier than Sunday (Jan. 7).

A Falcon 9 rocket will launch the secret Zuma mission from SpaceX's pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window opens Sunday at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT).

SpaceX announced the new flight target for Zuma late Thursday (Jan. 4), one day after saying that the mission, which was initially set for a Jan. 4 liftoff, was near ready to launch on Friday (Jan. 5). SpaceX representatives said additional fueling tests on the Falcon 9 were performed Wednesday and Thursday. [SpaceX's Secret Zuma Launch: Here's What We Know]

"Team at the Cape completed additional propellant loading tests today," SpaceX representatives wrote on Twitter Thursday. "Extreme weather slowed operations but Falcon 9 and the Zuma spacecraft are healthy and go for launch—now targeting January 7 from Pad 40 in Florida."

The "extreme weather" cited may refer to the unseasonably cold weather that hit Florida during the "bomb cyclone" winter storm that pummeled the U.S. East Coast this week.

The Zuma mission has been delayed since last November, when SpaceX stood down to review data from payload-fairing tests on a separate Falcon 9 rocket for a different launch customer. The payload fairing is the protective nose cone atop a rocket that shrouds a payload during the launch into space.

SpaceX has not disclosed the nature of the Zuma spacecraft, only that it is being launched for the U.S. government under a deal arranged by the aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman representatives have confirmed that Zuma will launch into a low-Earth orbit, rather than a higher, geosynchronous orbit. SpaceX representatives have also said that the Falcon 9 rocket will land its first stage back on Earth after the mission. That landing will touch down at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Zuma will mark SpaceX's third classified launch for the U.S. government. The company launched a secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May 2017, and then launched the U.S. Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane on a secret mission in September.

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