What We Know About The SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Explosion

Credit: Video Screen Grab

Cape Canaveral, Florida — The explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket destroyed itself and the AMOS 6 satellite, which was supposed to kick-off Facebook’s grand plan of providing free internet access to one of the most unforgiving continents on the planet — Africa. Thus, “making the world more open and connected” as Mark Zuckerberg loves to say. Here are the 5 Fast Facts about what we know:

1A Falcon 9 Rocket Exploded on the Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

SpaceX had plans to launch a Falcon 9 Rocket containing a satellite this upcoming weekend, but they suffered a major setback after the rocket exploded during a routine launch test.

The rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral after preparations were underway for the routine static fire test of the Falcon 9’s engines. There were several explosions, one triggering another which destroyed the rocket and its payload.

This image collage shows that the initial explosion occurred at the top of the rocket. Credit: SpaceX

The initial explosion was so loud that it could be heard from several miles away, reportedly shaking buildings. Emergency first responders were immediately on the scene to deal with the damage from the explosions.

2SpaceX Released a Statement Shortly After, Confirming That There Were No Injuries

First official statement made by SpaceX after the explosion. Credit: Twitter / SpaceX

Thankfully there were no injuries caused by the explosion of the rocket, which was viewed by many onlookers as well as those working on the launch. The company would then confirm the explosion and that there had been no injuries.

The air force unit in charge of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) also confirmed this. Bryan Purtell, a public affairs officer for the US Air Force, said:

“There are no known casualties. There’s no threat to public safety, and our emergency management teams are on site responding,”

3The Satellite Lost in the Explosion was Valued at $195 million

Artist’s rendering of the AMOS 6 satellite orbiting Earth above Africa. Credit: Facebook

The purpose of the Falcon 9 rocket was to help launch the Amos 6 satellite. This satellite would have provided internet access to areas in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of a Facebook initiative that aims to bring internet access to some of the most remote locations in the world.

This graphic shows the proposed coverage area of the AMOS 6 satellite. Credit: Eutelsat / Space News

Facebook had actually leased the satellite from Israeli operator Spacecom, a deal that would have meant Facebook paying Spacecom over $195 million (USD) from 2016 – 2032.

In a statement to the Verge, a representative from Facebook would say,

“We are disappointed by the loss, but remain committed to our mission of connecting people to the Internet around the world.”

4The Direct Cause of the Explosion Still Remains Unknown

As SpaceX performs a static fire test prior to every launch of their rockets, the test was viewed as routine and had been conducted successfully many times before this.

Initial reports were that the cause of the explosion was due to “an anomaly on the pad”, resulting in the destruction of the rocket and the satellite.

An artist’s rendering of the Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX / User’s Manual – Page 6

SpaceX has since confirmed that the issue originated at the oxygen tank at the top portion of the rocket when something went wrong, although a direct cause still remains unclear.

Statement by SpaceX and Elon Musk. Credit: Twitter / SpaceX / Elon Musk

5It Is Not the First Setback the Company Has Faced

Despite being a major setback for future launch plans from SpaceX, it is something that the company has dealt with in the past.

On June 28, 2015, SpaceX lost a Falcon 9 rocket in another explosion, which occurred only 3 minutes into the launch. The rocket was launched with the Dragon cargo capsule the company had developed, which was headed to towards the International Space Station.

The cause of this explosion was discovered many weeks after the explosion, relating to a faulty steel strut that caused internal damage leading up to the explosion. The company opted to do extensive testing on all struts thereafter.

SpaceX would recover from the setback, successfully launching a Falcon 9 in December of that year before going on to make the first ever successful soft landing during an orbital launch.

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