A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Israeli communications satellite were destroyed Thursday while the booster was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test firing at its Florida launch pad.
The explosion rocked nearby buildings at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, located just north of the Air Force base, and sent billows of black smoke into the sky.
The rocket was being prepared to launch Spacecom's AMOS-6 satellite at 3 a.m. EDT on Saturday.
As it was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test, a problem around the upper stage engine oxygen tank triggered an explosion at 9:07 a.m., destroying the rocket and its $200 million satellite, officials said.
Among the customers planning to use AMOS-6 was Facebook, which, along with Eutelsat, had leased the satellite's broadband communications capabilities to provide Internet access 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," Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.
"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," he said.
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Aquila is an Internet-via-drone project under development by Facebook.
SpaceX declined to comment on the extent of damage to Launch Complex 40, its primary launch pad. The company had planned to debut its second launch pad, located at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, before the end of the year. It also launches polar-orbiting satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is building a fourth launch site in Texas.
SpaceX has more than 70 launches on its manifest, worth more than $10 billion.
"I have the utmost confidence in SpaceX's ability to bounce back from what happened today and to continue to work toward their vision and goals of revolutionizing space technology and eventually having people explore outside of this planet," Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Space Federation, a Washington D.C. trade organization, said in an email.
"The industry as a whole, including SpaceX, is very resilient and determined and will learn from today's incident and continue to move forward," Stallmer said.