A SpaceX rocket blew up on a launchpad in Florida, marking the second loss of a spacecraft by Elon Musk’s venture in a little more than a year and hobbling a Facebook Inc. initiative to spread internet access across Africa.
The blast, which occurred Thursday Morning 9 a.m. local time before a test firing of the rocket’s engines, left a plume of thick black smoke and rattled windows in buildings miles away, according to Twitter posts.
SpaceX said there were no injuries as a result of the explosion, which it described as an “anomaly.” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the explosion happened while the rocket was being fueled, but that the cause of the blast is still unknown.
Facebook is in a partnership with French satellite firm Eutelsat Communications. The satellite, called Amos 6, was owned by Israeli company Spacecom.
“I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post while travelling in Africa. He added that the satellite “would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”
Zuckerberg also said he has other technologies to help connect people. “We will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he wrote.
The blast, which took place at 9:07 am, was a series of explosions that lasted for more than four minutes. Launch Complex 40, where the blast occurred, is an Air Force facility which has been leased to SpaceX. The company has launched 25 rockets from the site since 2010. Its rockets have carried supplies to the International Space Station as well as satellites.