But the spacecraft apparently did not separate as it was supposed to from the upper stage of the rocket and did not reach a stable orbit, according to a USA administration official and two sources who were briefed on the matter.
Contradictory accounts are emerging in the wake of the apparent failure of the Zuma mission - a secretive multibillion-dollar spy satellite that was launched by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida this past weekend.
"I don't think we can know", Ketcham said.
Company President Gwynne Shotwell said the Falcon 9 rocket "did everything correctly" Sunday night and suggestions otherwise are "categorically false". SpaceX's review so far indicates that "no design, operational or other changes are needed", she said. The company only said it's classified and wouldn't comment.
As they battled with SpaceX, ULA's executives launched a "results over rhetoric" campaign, highlighting the company's long heritage in space. Compromising relationships with the military would carry significant consequences: Defense contract launches were estimated to be valued at about $70 billion through 2030 in a 2014 government report. Earlier in the day, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the nighttime launch on Twitter.
Yesterday afternoon, media reports began appearing stating that the satellite was lost and members of Congress had been briefed on the failure. Under mounting pressure from SpaceX, he was sacked, and ULA's new CEO, Tory Bruno, vowed to "literally transform" the company in order to compete with Musk - and he also continued to champion ULA's track record of successful launches.
The end goal for the Hawthorne, California-based company will be to prove the utility of the rocket that can lift more than twice the payload of competitor United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.More news: New study shows most people who try cigarettes become regular smokers
Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp., which manufactured the satellite and chose SpaceX for the mission, declined to comment on the coupling, saying "we can not comment on classified missions". Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, the Pentagon spokesman for space policy, referred questions to SpaceX. The Falcon Heavy is perhaps the most important rocket ever created by SpaceX, as it is the one planned to be used for missions to the moon and Mars. The takeoff had been pushed back several times since late 2017, with the past week's extreme weather on the East Coast contributing to the latest delay.
SpaceX launched two other national security missions past year: a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in May and the Pentagon's autonomous space plane known as the X-37B in September.
Last May was the first time SpaceX launched its first satellite for the US military with its Falcon 9 rocket.
On its website, SpaceX says it has more than 70 upcoming missions on its launch manifest, which could take several years. The webcast then concluded.
An expensive, secret US spy satellite with highly classified information may be lost in space, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
A high-value failure could slow SpaceX's expanding launch business, which includes NASA, national security and commercial missions. After an extensive Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in 2015 to compete for military launches.
In three weeks, the company has another Falcon 9 launch planned from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 as the company aims to put a communication satellite for Luxembourg into space.