For anyone who wondered why launch prep takes weeks & why no one is allowed near, this is why #Falcon9 #SpaceX pic.twitter.com/ukCPmAhOhD— Hunter Blaeser (@MinnesotaLoving) September 1, 2016
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a Cape Canaveral launchpad this morning, destroying its payload — Facebook's first satellite — in the process. Business Insider reports that the $200 million AMOS-6 satellite was intended to support the social media giant's Internet.org program to provide internet access to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Unlike past SpaceX explosions, of which there have been several, the problem this time appears to have been with the launchpad and not the rocket itself.
"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," the company said in a statement. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
According to Motherboard, the force of the explosion was massive enough to shake buildings miles away.
yeesh pic.twitter.com/oBUJAQhRUt— Alex Fitzpatrick (@AlexJamesFitz) September 1, 2016
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg last year wrote about his big plans for the AMOS-6, which was built by the Israeli company IAI. "Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky," he explained. "To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies."
The AMOS-6, scheduled for launch Saturday, was to be a crucial element of that new technology. Zuckerberg, for his part, seems pretty upset about the loss. "As I'm here in Africa, 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," he posted to Facebook.
SpaceX has made a name for itself with the reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket both takes off and lands vertically, and is likely to play a key part in SpaceX founder Elon Musk's plans to send humans to Mars by 2024.
No word yet on whether this setback will slow Musk down, or if he'll just release a close-up video of the explosion and try again.
Here's picture of Falcon 9 with Spacecom's Amos-6 telecommunications satellite on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. pic.twitter.com/EuHGIGQYqy— Peter B. de Selding (@pbdes) September 1, 2016
This post has been updated to include Mark Zuckerberg's response.
Related: SpaceX Vertically Lands Its Falcon 9 Rocket, Geeks Everywhere Rejoice