Facebook’s first satellite destroyed in SpaceX test rocket explosion
AMOS-6 satellite, the first from Facebook’s Internet.org initiative and part of Mark Zuckerberg’s future vision for delivering the internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, went up in flames, when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida during a test, destroying it and its payload. The Falcon 9 rocket costs about $60 million, and Facebook’s AMOS-6 cost about$200 million.
Both the rocket and the satellite were destroyed in the explosion, which resulted from an “anomaly” with the launch pad and not the rocket itself. However, there were no injuries, SpaceX said in a statement.
“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s standard pre-launch static fire test, there was an anomaly on the pad, resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” SpaceX said in a statement about an hour after the explosion. “Per standard procedures, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”
SpaceX was conducting a test firing of the unmanned rocket when the blast occurred, shaking buildings several miles away. Eyewitnesses reported multiple explosions in the aftermath.
The rocket was set to launch on Saturday, September 3, 2016. Its mission was to deliver an AMOS-6 communication satellite belonging to Facebook. The AMOS-6 satellite, which reportedly was set to be used to provide internet connectivity to rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, was on board the Falcon 9 rocket at the time of the test and was destroyed in the explosion.
The loss of the satellite is expected to delay the rollout of an important component of Facebook’s ambitious plan to connect every person on the planet to the Internet. “We are disappointed by the loss but remain committed to our mission of connecting people to the Internet around the world,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.
“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 in a statement posted to Facebook. He had scheduled an Africa trip this week to coincide with the satellite’s launch. On Friday, Zuckerberg met with Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and also visited Kenya.
However, pointing other efforts in the works to spread Internet connectivity around the globe, such as a fleet of Facebook-built drones, Zuckerberg said, “Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well. We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”
The satellite’s destruction is just the latest setback for Internet.org, Zuckerberg’s signature project to bring connectivity to remote places around the world that do not have it. In October, Facebook announced it had teamed with French satellite company Eutelsat to launch the AMOS-6 satellite in a deal valued at $95 million for a five-year lease on the Ka-band communication array.