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SpaceX prepares launch of secret Zuma payload

After a record 18 orbital launches in 2017, SpaceX looks to kickoff the new year with a rather secretive launch for American aerospace and defense company, Northrop Grumman.

Little is known about the mission, Zuma, beyond that it is destined for Low Earth Orbit. The payload will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 v 1.2 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Liftoff is scheduled to occur during a two hour launch window that opens on January 4th at 8 p.m. EST  Update: now targeting January 6th with an unknown launch window after 8 p.m. EST.

Check out our guide on how to watch a SpaceX launch online.

The Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage will attempt a controlled landing at Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to the Kennedy Space Center.

A successful launch will clear the way for the critical static firing of the Falcon Heavy’s 27 Merlin engines. Heavy’s inaugural launch is tentatively expected late January or February with a piece of unique cargo: a Tesla Roadster. Because of the inherent risks involved in launching rockets, no client cargo will be aboard the inaugural trip. Falcon Heavy was designed to carry crewed missions to Mars and the Moon.

The launch mission execution forecast looks favorable for a green light to launch. Daily updates are provided by the 45th Weather Squadron, part of the 45th Space Wing of the U.S Air Force stationed at Cape Canaveral.

Photo: The Falcon 9 Zuma vertical on launch pad

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