This is an updated version of an earlier report.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is visiting Africa to meet tech entrepreneurs and promote this week’s scheduled launch of an Internet satellite, said he was “deeply disappointed” to hear that the satellite had been destroyed, BBC reported.
“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 wrote on his Facebook account.
There were no injuries but a Facebook satellite was destroyed when the SpaceX rocket carrying it exploded Thursday during a routine test in preparation for a Saturday launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida Today reported.
Elon Musk’s Tesla-owned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its pad. Witnesses reported seeing a fireball, hearing multiple explosions, feeling shock waves in buildings several miles away at Kennedy Space Center and seeing smoke rising just after 9 a.m.
“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” SpaceX said in a statement. “Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”
The rocket’s payload was one of the Spacecom series of satellites built by Israeli Aerospace Industries.
Facebook had planned to use some of the satellite’s capacity to expand its Internet.org Free Basics initiative in Africa.
Zuckerberg was in Lagos Wednesday and Nairobi Thursday. He announced that the social network planned to launch a satellite later this week to make the Internet accessible in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, according to The Street.
Shares of Facebook were higher in late-morning trading Wednesday.
Zuckerberg said the satellite would beam down connectivity via solar-powered drones that are “basically like a cellphone tower in the sky,” The Street reported.
The test, considered routine, was in advance of a planned Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to Gizmodo.
SpaceX, one of the companies that launches cargo ships to the International Space Station, was set to launch the satellite for Facebook at 3 a.m. ET Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Computerworld reported.
Facebook was using capacity on the Amos 6 communications satellite. The satellite was to launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Losing the Amos-6 satellite, valued at more than $200 million, is a major blow to the industry, said Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency. “As far as the Israeli communications satellite industry is concerned, this is a very severe blow which could place the future of the industry in doubt.”
The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tanks and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle, SpaceX said in a statement, according to BBC.
SpaceX wants to create a new era of reusable rockets, affordable and distant space travel. This test firing was meant to be routine, part of an accelerating series of launches.
Facebook opened its first Africa office in Johannesburg in 2015, and partnered with Paris-based Eutelstat Communications to launch the satellite, Telecrunch reported.
Facebook had 84 million users in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.7 billion worldwide of of July, according to Bloomberg.
SpaceX and Boeing are preparing to launch astronauts to the International Space Station in the next 18 months, Florida Today reported.
The Falcon 9 has launched successfully nine times since June 2015, when a oxidizer tank ruptured in the rocket’s upper stage. That was its only in-flight failure.
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