SpaceX rocket explodes on launch pad in Florida

Posted on 1 Sep 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has exploded while undergoing pre-launch tests in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The large explosion occurred around 9:15am local time and reportedly damaged the windows of nearby buildings.

No deaths or injuries were reported following the explosion, however staff from some nearby areas were forced to evacuate.

The explosion itself occurred as the vehicle was preparing for a ‘static fire’ test of its engines.

According to an official statement released by SpaceX in the aftermath of the accident, the explosion was caused by an “anomaly on the pad”. The company also confirmed that both the rocket and its payload were lost.

The Falcon 9 rocket which exploded had been carrying Amos-6, a communications satellite for Israeli company Spacecom worth around $200m. Prior to the explosion, the rocket had been scheduled for launch this Saturday.

Due to the fact that the explosion happened pre-launch, it is currently unclear if the loss of the payload will be covered by insurers.

Beyond the loss of the vehicle and satellite, the launch site (LC-40) also sustained significant damage.

Several hours after the incident, SpaceX released a more detailed statement on what went wrong.

“During a standard pre-launch static fire test for the AMOS-6 mission, there was an anomaly at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 resulting in loss of the vehicle. The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries,” the company announced.

This is the second catastrophic explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in just over a year, following the failure of the CRS-7 mission on June 28, 2015.

Similar to the CRS-7 explosion, which set back the company’s launch manifest by around 6 months, this latest failure also seems to have originated in the upper stage of the rocket.

Beyond the delays caused by the lost rocket and satellite, the company’s primary launch schedule will also be effected by the pad damage.

SpaceX will be forced to operate from its one remaining launch pad in Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, until it can repair LC-40, or bring online its new launch pad at LC-39A.

The explosion also comes on the back of SpaceX announcing that it had finally found a customer who will fly on its first reused rocket mission.

Luxembourg-based SES had reportedly signed on for such a mission slated for the final quarter of 2016, however following today’s explosion this flight could see significant delays.