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.
Statement on this morning’s anomaly pic.twitter.com/3Xm2bRMS7T— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 1, 2016
Watch a video of the launch test below:
Credit: US Launch Report