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Is the Zuma satellite still in orbit?

In January 2018, a classified satellite known only as Zuma, built by defense contractor Northrop Grumman for an unknown agency of the United States government, was launched by commercial space launch provider SpaceX. The specific agency in charge of the Zuma project has not been disclosed, nor its purpose. The National Reconnaissance Office, the agency responsible for operating the spy satellites of the United States, which typically announces the launch of its assets, specifically denied that Zuma was one of their satellites (…).

The satellite had a development cost of approximately $3.5 billion according to reports in the Wall Street Journal, and as such is one of the most-expensive single objects ever launched into space.

It is also, perhaps, one of the costliest objects ever lost in connection to a space mission.

The official story (provided by anonymous government officials) is that Zuma was lost before achieving orbit when it failed to separate from its payload adapter, provided by Northrop Grumman, and was destroyed when it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. Launch provider SpaceX has been absolved of responsibility for the claimed loss of the satellite. However, due to the uncommon extent of the secrecy surrounding the mission and the high value of the payload, conspiracy theories have swirled from the day of the launch.

Many people believe that the satellite is actually in orbit conducting a secret mission for persons unknown. Amateur astronomers have been scanning the skies in an attempt to locate the satellite (a feat previously accomplished with spy satellites, the orbits of which are not typically disclosed by the agencies responsible for them), but so far have not succeeded in locating Zuma. The US government has so far refused to publicly state if there was a failure of Zuma, and this secrecy has only served to increase the level of speculation on its purpose and its fate.

More information on the satellite can be found here:

Was Zuma really destroyed before achieving orbit - or is it still up there?

This question shall resolve positively if credible media reports state that the Zuma satellite has been located in orbit around Earth, or if any agency of the United States government publicly confirms that the satellite is still in orbit. The satellite need not be operational, or have ever been operational, in order for the question to resolve positively.

The question will resolve negatively if conclusive evidence of the satellite's destruction is presented.

The question will resolve ambiguously if neither a positive nor negative resolution is possible by January 1, 2030.


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