Cape Town – In a galaxy far, far away American President Donald Trump might call Kim Jong-un of North Korea Rocket Man, but the US government will be launching Zuma into space on Thursday.
While some South Africans wouldn’t mind seeing Zuma blasted into space and might be disappointed that the launch has been delayed by a day, it remains a mystery what exactly the Americans want Zuma to do up there.
“The payload aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a top-secret passenger for the US government named Zuma,” reported SpaceFlight Now on Wednesday.
The arms company Northrop Grumman procured the services of South African-born Elon Musk’s company SpaceX on behalf of the American government.
South Africans can rest assured that every care will be taken of Zuma as he boldly goes where no one has gone before. Northrop Grumman spokesperson Lon Rains said, as reported by Express, “As a company, Northrop Grumman realises that this is monumental responsibility and have taken great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.”
Rains told several online publications that “the Zuma payload is a restricted payload”. This means no further information will be made available about the mission’s purpose.
The website Mashable reported that even the American National Reconnaissance Office —the government branch that maintains spy satellites — will usually reveal when a payload – the craft’s cargo or passenger – is theirs, but will keep the mission details classified.
But no state agency claimed Zuma.
What is known is that one of Space X’s Falcon 9 rockets will be launched into Low Earth Orbit. Lift-off has initially been scheduled for Wednesday but has been postponed to Thursday, due to weather conditions. The launch will be from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in the American state of Florida.
Meanwhile, in the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma will answer questions in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday at 14:00.