SpaceX Loses Rocket, $200 Million Satellite in Test Fire Explosion

The explosion puts SpaceX's launch schedule in serious jeopardy.

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Sep 1 2016, 2:30pm

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, along with its $200 million Israeli telecommunications satellite payload, exploded Thursday during a static fire test at the company's launch facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of a launch planned for Saturday.

NASA and several witnesses of the blast have been posting images and videos of huge plumes of smoke billowing from the area. Several people have said that buildings shook miles away, and smoke from the explosions were visible on weather radars.

No injuries have been reported at this time. SpaceX said in a statement that the $200 million Israeli Amos-6 telecommunications satellite was onboard during the test and has been lost.

"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," the company said in a statement. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."

Though we still don't have the full story of what happened, the loss of a rocket and its payload is a major setback for the company.

SpaceX has a full slate of upcoming launches, but surely NASA will want the company to investigate what went wrong, which would push much of that timeline back. After a Falcon 9 rocket exploded in June, 2015, SpaceX was grounded for nearly six months.

Here are some upcoming milestones for the company that are potentially in jeopardy:

  • The first launch of a reusable Falcon 9 rocket
  • Tests for a crewed mission to the International Space Station, which was planned for next year.
  • The actual launch of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station
  • The maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy, a heavy launch vehicle made of three Falcon 9 rocket cores.

SpaceX is also planning some far-future announcements and tests: Elon Musk said he would unveil his Mars plan by the end of the year, and Wednesday, SpaceX announced that it would hold its hyperloop competition at the beginning of 2017. An explosion doesn't mean neither of those can happen, but there will certainly be calls for the company to focus on its main business of launching satellites.

The story is developing, we'll update when we hear back from SpaceX.