A loud explosion sent black smoke billowing from a Florida launch site during preparations for the static test-fire of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket intended for launch on Sept. 3.
Cause of the explosion, which occurred shortly after 9 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1, wasn’t immediately clear, but SpaceX said it occurred during fueling operations. The incident means the indefinite postponement of the planned mission, whose satellite was to be used in part by Facebook-sponsored Internet.org to beam online service to underserved parts of Africa the Middle East and Europe.
SpaceX said both the rocket and its AMOS-6 satellite payload were lost in the explosion. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company suffered a high-profile launch failure with a Falcon 9 last year.
The Israel Aerospace-built satellite was owned by Israeli sat operator Spacecom. Facebook, via sat operator Eutelsat, had leased some of the broadband capacity of the AMOS-6 for Internet.org’s mission to beam Internet service to underserved regions.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was a lead co-founder of Internet.org, and other partners in the tech coalition now include Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm.