Facebook’s first ever satellite worth $200m was destroyed when a SpaceX rocket exploded during a test fire.
The space exploration and technologies firm confirmed that Amos-6, part of Mark Zuckerberg’s future vision for the internet, was completely decimated.
A launch was scheduled on Saturday at 1.33PM GMT to deliver the satellite into orbit to help bring the internet to Saharan Africa.
A rocket operated by the aerospace company SpaceX has exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral where it was being test-fired ahead of a launch.
The force of the blast shook buildings several miles away.
SpaceX said “an anomaly” had occurred while the rocket was being loaded with fuel. No-one was injured, it said.
The rocket’s payload, an Israeli-built communications satellite for Facebook due to launch on Saturday, was also destroyed, it added.
Facebook, in partnership with Eutelsat Communications, had been due to use the Amos-6 satellite to deliver broadband internet coverage for swathes of sub-Saharan Africa as part of its Internet.org initiative.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently visiting Africa, said he was “deeply disappointed” to hear that the satellite had been destroyed.
“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he wrote on his Facebook account.
A leading Israeli space official said the loss of the Amos-6 satellite, valued at more than $200m (£150m) and owned by Spacecom, was a major blow to the industry.
Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the SpaceX prelaunch test explosion on Thursday that destroyed Facebook’s first satellite.
“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,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.
Facebook wanted to use the US $195 million satellite to beam free internet to areas without access, like sub-Saharan Africa.
The satellite was supposed to ride SpaceX’s Falcon 9 into orbit.
“Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well,” Zuckerberg said, referencing the company’s drone project that’s also designed to provide high speed internet.
“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”
“As per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and no-one was injured. We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause.”
SpaceX is aiming to create a new era of reusable rockets and affordable private space travel and has used its Falcon-9 rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
In December last year, the California-based company successfully landed a Falcon-9 back on Earth after a mission to launch orbiting satellites – a first in rocketry.
SpaceX is run out of Hawthorne near Los Angeles by Elon Musk, who made his fortune with internet companies.
As well as being the rocket company’s CEO, he also heads up the Tesla electric car company.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his ‘deep disappointment’ at the destruction of his revolutionary $200million satellite on Thursday when the SpaceX Falcon 9 owned by Elon Musk’s company suffered a catastrophic explosion on the Cape Canaveral launch pad during a routine pre-launch check.
Zuckerberg is currently visiting several countries in Africa and likely would have marked the occasion of Facebook’s Amos 6 satellite being launched into orbit on Saturday, had it not been destroyed around 9am in the massive blast. The satellite was to provide at least 14 countries on the continent and Middle East with free broadband.
‘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,’ Zuckerberg wrote.
Zuckerberg’s statement about the loss of the satellite appears to be a jab at fellow billionaire Musk, who lost about $390million as the stock prices of two of his companies, Telsa and SolarCity, dropped after the accident at Cape Canaveral.
After the accident, shares in Elon Musk’s electric car maker Tesla dropped 5.3 percent and his SolarCity venture was also down 9.1 percent.
The tech CEO’s publicly clashed when Musk took to Twitter seemingly in response to Zuckerberg’s Facebook statement to deny that his unmanned rocket was to blame, as he made it clear that the cause of the accident was unknown.
The blast occurred shortly after 9am in Cape Canaveral, as smoke could be seen billowing into the sky where the $200million Amos-6 satellite was set to launch on Saturday morning with a SpaceX reusable rocket.
The test was in advance of a planned Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is next to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
‘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,’ a SpaceX spokesman said to DailyMail.com in an email.
The rocket was supposed to launch the Amos-6 communication satellite, which included the capabilities for Facebook to spot-beam broadband for Facebook’s Internet.org initiative.
France-based satellite provider Eutelast and Facebook spent an estimated $95million on the satellite’s Ka-band communication array for a five year lease.
Facebook first announced its plans to launch a satellite to provide internet access to remote parts of Africa in October 2015, with Zuckerberg saying ‘I’m excited to announce our first project to deliver internet from space.
SpaceX is one of two companies shipping supplies to the space station for NASA.
It’s also working on a crew capsule to ferry station U.S. astronauts; that first flight was supposed to come as early as next year.
Two NASA astronauts were conducting a spacewalk 250 miles up, outside the International Space Station, when the explosion occurred. Mission Control did not immediately advise them of the accident.
The explosion does prove to be a setback for SpaceX. The California-based company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, had been ramping up with frequent launches to make up for a backlog created by a launch accident in June 2015. SpaceX was leasing the pad from the Air Force for its Falcon launches.
The company is also redoing a former shuttle pad at Kennedy for future manned flights for NASA.
SpaceX was planning on carrying out their first manned rocket launch within a year, but the future of that project is unknown.