Excerpted from ABC News: An explosion erupted during a SpaceX fueling operation at its launch site in Florida around 9:07 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, destroying a satellite that Facebook had intended to use to provide internet connectivity to rural Africa, company officials and local authorities said.
SpaceX was in the process of conducting a fueling test on Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral when the incident occurred, an engineer at Kennedy Space Center told ABC News.
The explosion happened “in preparation for today’s static fire,” which resulted in “the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” SpaceX said in a statement.
The explosion was felt around the facility and a mushroom cloud could be seen over the launch site, the engineer told ABC News.
There were no injuries as a result of the explosion, the Brevard County Emergency Management Office told ABC News. The office tweeted that “there is NO threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad at [Cape Canaveral Air Force Station] this morning.”
Brian Purtell, a spokesman for the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which controls Cape Canaveral’s space operations, said that personnel were being evacuated from the facility.
“Once we determine everybody is out of there, then we can go in when it’s safe to kind of determine what happened,” Purtell said, noting that SpaceX had a scheduled launch for early Saturday morning.
The rocket that was destroyed was carrying the AMOS-6 communications satellite, a spokesman for SpaceX told ABC News, adding that the mission was commercial and not for NASA.
SpaceX announced in January 2013 a deal with Space Communications Ltd. (Spacecom) to launch AMOS-6 into geosynchronous orbit sometime in 2015, which would “provide communication services, including direct satellite home internet for Africa, the Middle East and Europe,” and was built by Israel Aerospace Industries.
As part of its activities in space, the AMOS-6 was going to “provide internet coverage to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa” as part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiatives to increase internet connectivity around the world, according to a posting on the social network by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg, who coincidentally is travelling in Kenya today, posted on Facebook: “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.”
“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 said.
In an email, a spokesman for Spacecom acknowledged the SpaceX statement, but did not add further details.
Israel Aerospace Industries said that it was, “disappointed about this incident,” and was ready to provide assistance. The manufacturer said that the satellite was “the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel.”Read the whole thing