$200m Facebook satellite destroyed as SpaceX rocket explodes on launchpad

An unmanned SpaceX rocket and a $200 million satellite have been destroyed in an explosion during a routine test at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket and its payload blew up during a test firing on the launchpad, ahead of a proposed launch on Saturday. SpaceX said no-one was injured as it blamed an “anomaly” on the launchpad for the explosion. The Israeli AMOS-6 satellite destroyed in the blast was set to be part of a Facebook scheme to provide internet coverage to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries

SpaceX statement

The blast is being seen as a major setback for SpaceX, a company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk to develop reusable rockets. Buildings several miles away shook from the blast. Multiple explosions continued for several minutes, while dark smoke filled the overcast sky. However, there were no injuries as the pad was cleared of workers before the test firing. SpaceX is one of two companies shipping supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. It successfully launched a Falcon 9 last month, sending a Japanese communications satellite into orbit and then landing the rocket on a floating drone ship.

It is certainly unfortunate for the broader future plans for SpaceX

Space expert John Logsdon