The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion at Cape Canaveral on Thursday has been described as a "fast fire" by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In a tweet, Musk downplayed the gravity of the incident and asserted that it was absolutely a fire and not an explosion.
However, some industry observers are of the view that SpaceX operations may be hit for a few weeks as the damage to the Launch Complex 40 can be serious.
Even as Musk asserted "fast fire" in the tweet, eyewitness accounts said the blast turned the Falcon 9 rocket into a bowl of fire. It was 9:07 a.m when SpaceX fueled the 230-foot Falcon 9 for a practice countdown to prepare for Saturday's launch of a satellite for Israel's Spacecom.
The fire incident destroyed both the rocket and payload. The Israeli satellite was to be used by Facebook for providing internet services in remote African countries.
The "static fire" test was to follow with a brief firing of the booster's nine engines. Suddenly, fire entered the rocket's upper stage, and explosions started. Many buildings in the vicinity trembled, and heavy plumes of smoke started billowing up.
Second Consecutive Loss for SpaceX
For SpaceX, Thursday's fire was the second consecutive loss within a little over a year. In June 2015, a SpaceX supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded in the Atlantic and lost the unmanned Dragon spacecraft and a Falcon 9 rocket. That was extensively reported by Tech Times.
There is concern that the fire incident may hurt SpaceX's reputation at a time when it is getting ready to launch a NASA astronauts mission in 2017. As mentioned, NASA has tied up with SpaceX to supply cargo to the ISS.
Despite the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fiasco, NASA expressed confidence in its supply partner and said this will be a learning experience.
"Today's incident — while it was not a NASA launch — is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but our partners learn from each success and setback," NASA officially said.
The SpaceX rocket was supposed to carry the Amos 6 satellite in which Facebook and French satellite provider Eutelsat have invested close to $100 million each for leasing bandwidth.
"I'm deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, adding that the destroyed satellite could have boosted the company's Internet.org initiative.
Photo: SpaceX | Flickr