Friday, September 9, 2016


We featured an article on SpaceX and its reusable recycled rockets a while ago, but today it seems only bad news is in store for Elon Musk’s private aerospace company. On the morning of Thursday September 1, a SpaceX rocket exploded in a massive fireball at its Launchpad in Cape Canaveral.

CNN reports that the incident took place at Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40, a rocket launch facility of the US Air Force that has been leased to SpaceX for its rocket launches, of which 25 have been performed since the year 2010. At about 9:07 AM ET the Falcon 9 rocket, which was being fueled for its scheduled launch on Saturday September 3, was in the middle of static fire test procedures when a fireball erupted from an upper portion of the rocket stage close to the payload.

From there arose a near-cataclysmic explosion that tore apart the Falcon 9 module and sent its payload section tumbling down into the resulting flames. The cargo, a communications satellite called Amos 6 from Israeli firm Spacecom, was destroyed.

A Twitter post by Musk reported that there were no casualties from the explosion as the launch site was cleared of people as per routine procedures. It further stated that the cause of the blast remains unknown, terming it only as an “anomaly”.

The ruined Amos 6 satellite was to be jointly operated by satellite company Eutelsat Communications in France, and by major social media network Facebook, in order to transmit internet access to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. FB CEO Mark Zuckerberg, currently on a business trip in Africa, posted his disappointment at the destruction of the satellite in SpaceX’s launch failure, as a successful development of the Amos 6 would have been a boon to entrepreneurs and everyone else across the great continent. Despite the major setback Zuckerberg notes, "We will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided."

This has been the second launch mishap by SpaceX during their use of Launch Complex 40; June 2015 saw another rocket explode during one of the company’s routine missions to send supplies to the International Space Station. It had been determined that the mishap was due to a support strut for a helium tank failing. SpaceX also lost several of its Falcon 9 rockets while attempting their launch recovery function by having them try to land vertically on an ocean platform.

Thursday’s accident, while flashy and loud, did not disrupt operations throughout the rest of Cape Canaveral. In nearby Launch Complex 41, an Atlas V rocket that is due to launch in a week remained undisturbed in its Launchpad.

Before the accident, SpaceX had worked out a deal with NASA to transfer their rocket launch operations from Complex 40 to 39A, a site formerly used to launch the now-retired space shuttles. Musk has spent money to upgrade the facilities there.

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