SpaceX rocket explodes on Florida launchpad

spaceX launch

The explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 1, 2016, sent smoke billowing over the Cape Canaveral skyline, as seen from a webcam at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. 

NASA Telescience Lab 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its satellite passenger went up in flames during a routine test September 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX was preparing to launch the AMOS-6 satellite for the Israeli company Spacecom on September 3, as part of a larger Facebook project aimed at beaming internet to parts of sub-Saharan Africa from space. The explosion occurred during the static fire engine test that usually precedes such launches. Falcon 9 fires its engines in two stages, and the test entails running the rocket’s first-stage engines while remaining grounded on the launchpad.

Though the blast took out both the rocket and satellite, no one was injured, SpaceX said in a statement on Twitter. The explosion’s cause remains unclear. The trouble “originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle. We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause,” Phil Larson, a SpaceX spokesperson, said in an email to Science News.

Last year, a Falcon 9 blew up in June just after blasting off to resupply the International Space Station. Since then, SpaceX has had some successes, including last December’s momentous launch and landing. But today’s explosion may set back future transport and manned missions.  

Watch a video of the launch test below:

Credit: US Launch Report

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the associate digital editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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