There’s been an explosion on SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch complex. Apparently, a Falcon 9 rocket is in flames, and several images of a smoke plume rising above the complex suggest that something is very wrong.
Following a flurry of tweets about the explosion, NASA confirmed that there was indeed a series of explosions. The AP reports:
NASA says SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred Thursday morning. The test, considered routine, was in advance of a planned Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Buildings several miles away shook from the blast, and multiple explosions continued for several minutes. A cloud of dark smoke filled the overcast sky.
SpaceX reports that there were no injuries, but both the vehicle and its payload were lost. Its payload, by the way, was apparently an Israeli-made communications satellite that Facebook was going to use to blast free internet down to sub-Saharan Africa.
Nevertheless, images from the scene of the explosions look very bad:
Here’s an image of the strong back, via Skywitness News, showing significant damage to the strong back.
The smoke plume even grew large enough that it was able to be seen on radar:
And onlookers were present to film the aftermath:
SpaceX was due to launch an Amos 6 communications satellite for Spacecom of Israel on a Falcon 9 on Saturday. The reused Falcon 9 rocket that was recently scheduled to take off, however, was reportedly not involved in the accident:
Again, the rocket and its payload were destroyed in the explosions. We’re reaching out to SpaceX for more information and will continue to update this post as we hear back.
Update 10:25 a.m. It looks like, contrary to earlier reports, the Amos 6 communications satellite had indeed been loaded and was destroyed in the explosion. SpaceX confirms, however, that there were no injuries or casualties from the incident.
Facebook reportedly had a deal with Spacecom to make use of their Amos 6 as part of their effort to increase worldwide internet connectivity. Computerworld reports:
SpaceX, one of the companies that launches cargo ships to the International Space Station, is set to launch the satellite for Facebook at 3 a.m. ET Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Facebook is using space on the Amos 6 communications satellite, owned by Israeli-based Spacecom. The satellite is launching on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
We’re reaching out to Facebook to find out how this will affect its free internet plans in Africa.
Update 11:11 a.m. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is on the scene and is now monitoring air quality following the explosion.
“NASA has no direct information related to the incident that occurred shortly after 9 a.m. EDT Thursday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40,” Mike Curie, Kennedy Space Center’s News Chief, said in a statement to Gizmodo. “Kennedy Space Center Emergency Operations Center personnel are monitoring the situation and standing by to assist if required. Kennedy Environmental Health is monitoring the air quality to ensure it is safe for employees.”
Update 11:50 a.m. Roadblocks have been set up to keep the area around the launchpad, which still appears to be sending up heavy smoke clouds, clear. But new images, with earlier views of the explosion, continue to come in showing its incredible scale:
Update 1:10 pm: SpaceX has located the site of the problem—though not quite the precise cause yet. It appears that the anomaly resulted from a problem occurring in the oxygen tank, although SpaceX is still trying to find out just what went wrong.