SpaceX’s Falcon rocket booster lands on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean after launching a satellite into orbit May 27. The company was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when an explosion occurred Thursday morning. (Associated Press)
An explosion rocked SpaceX’s launch site in Florida on Thursday morning, destroying a Falcon 9 rocket set for liftoff this weekend and its payload, the company has confirmed.
The explosion occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force station shortly after 6 a.m. Pacific time, sending dark clouds of smoke into the sky and shaking buildings miles away.
SpaceX said in a statement that while preparing for a static test fire, an “anomaly on the pad resulted in the loss of the vehicle and its payload.” SpaceX was set to launch an Israeli communications satellite this weekend.
Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and no one was injured, SpaceX said.
NASA live camera shows fire burning on a launch pad after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a test firing in Cape Canaveral, Florida., (NASA)
Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Operations Center is “monitoring the situation” and is standing by for assistance if required, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said in a statement.
The explosion could be a huge setback for SpaceX, which this week announced that it had signed its first customer to launch a satellite with a reusable rocket.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has estimated that reusing rockets could eventually cut launch costs 30%.
The Hawthorne company, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has already hit major milestones, proving that it can successfully land its rocket boosters.
The company must prove that it can safely and reliably reuse rockets to fulfill its core mission to increase the frequency and lower the cost of launches.
In June 2015, a SpaceX rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station disintegrated over the Florida coast two minutes after liftoff.