American aerospace company SpaceX suffers a major blow to its rocket program after a satellite-carrying Falcon 9 rocket suddenly exploded at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday, Sept. 1.
The mishap occurred while the 604-ton rocket was being fueled with a combination of kerosene propellant and liquid oxygen in preparation for a scheduled test fire. The resulting explosion quickly engulfed the spacecraft's launch pad in flames.
"SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's standard pre-launch static fire test, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload," SpaceX announced through Twitter. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
It is still unclear what exactly triggered the Falcon 9's explosion and just how much damage it has done on the launch pad. However, the loss of the spacecraft could cause a delay in SpaceX's launch plans.
Hank Price, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said they have inspectors present at Cape Canaveral to oversee the test fire of the Falcon 9's engine. They are now collecting information regarding the damage the explosion could have caused to the launch pad.
Loss Of Amos-6 Satellite
Aside from SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, the explosion on Thursday also resulted in the loss of the Amos-6 communications satellite owned by Space Communication (Spacecom) of Israel. It was supposed to help Facebook provide internet access to remote villages in Africa and help expand the social media giant's global reach.
The accident could derail Spacecom's impending sale to the Beijing Xinwei Technology Group valued at $285 million. The two companies announced last week that they have agreed to the deal but said it was dependent on the success of Amos-6's launch.
Spacecom said the loss of its communications satellite is expected to have "a significant impact" on the company.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg also expressed disappointment following the destruction of the Amos-6 satellite, which would have provided connectivity to people across Africa.
In a post on the social media site, Zuckerberg said they remain committed to their mission of connecting people. They will keep working until everyone is given the opportunities that Amos-6 would have provided them.
Eutelsat Communications, Facebook's partner on the project, likewise said it is still committed to expanding broadband reach in Africa. The company said the success of the venture would provide it with up to €50 million (about $56 million) in revenue by 2019.
The explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket was caught on video. You can watch it below: