Facebook’s mission to spread the internet across sub-Saharan Africa received a major setback after the rocket due to launch the communication satellite exploded in routine tests.
The launch, which had been set for Friday faces significant delays after the blast on Thursday on the launch pad of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, inews.co.uk reported.
Nobody is thought to have been hurt in the explosion, which occurred in a routine test firing ahead of a planned launch to take a satellite into space this weekend.
The cause is unknown and has been put down to “an anomaly” by the satellite’s owner, Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
Spreading the internet the satellite was due to become the first in Facebook’s project to spread internet to the developing world.
But the Amos-6 communication satellite, which would have allowed Facebook to spot-beam broadband for its Internet.org initiative, and the rocket have both been destroyed in the blast, which shook buildings several miles away and sent a thick plume of smoke into the air.
“There is no threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad,” a spokesman for the Brevard County Emergency Management Office said.
The explosion is a setback for SpaceX. The California-based company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, had been ramping up with frequent launches to make up for a backlog created by a launch accident in June 2015. SpaceX was leasing the pad from the Air Force for its Falcon launches.