A SpaceX Falcon rocket exploded at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday morning, sending up a huge plume of smoke that showed up on weather radar and shook buildings for miles.
- Falcon 9 rocket exploded at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
- Explosion occurred during a static fire test, according to SpaceX
- $200 million satellite was on the rocket
No injuries were reported.
SpaceX was conducting a static test firing of one of its unmanned rockets, a dress rehearsal the commercial company runs to test the rocket engines in the days before a scheduled launch. A launch of the rocket, which was to carry a $200 million AMOS-6 communications satellite in orbit, was scheduled for Saturday.
The satellite was destroyed.
The company said that at about 9:07 a.m., "an anomaly... resulted in the loss of the vehicle." It said the anomaly started in the upper stage oxygen tank and happened while it was loading rocket fuel.
"Cause still unknown," SpaceX chief Elon Musk said via Twitter. "More soon."
After the explosion, a huge plume from Space Launch Complex 40 could be seen for miles. The blast shook buildings along the Space Coast.
Jacki Bailey, who lives off the Indian River Lagoon, said she felt the explosion and first noticed fire coming from the launch pad in the distance. She then picked up her binoculars and saw black smoke. Seconds later, she said she felt her entire building shake.
"The explosion hit, and the windows and all my glasses just started rocking and rolling. And then the building shook, and then we just heard one explosion after another," Bailey said.
This will affect upcoming launches for SpaceX as there is likely extensive pad damage as a result of the explosion.
"SpaceX can confirm that 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."
Brevard County Emergency Management tweeted that the explosion was not a threat to the public.
There is NO threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad at CCAFS this morning.— Brevard EOC (@BrevardEOC) September 1, 2016
However, Emergency staff at Kennedy Space Center said they were monitoring the air for toxic fumes. It released the following statement:
KSC Emergency Responders are on standby to respond if needed at Pad 40. We are monitoring the toxicity levels throughout the Center to ensure personnel safety. No evacuation of any areas of KSC are required at this time. Please stay inside, shelter in place, if you are in the plume (smoke) area. Phillips parkway is closed to traffic. The KSC EOC open, at this time KSC is in support posture."
Air Force emergency management personnel also responded to the scene, and the 45th Space Wing urged people to avoid the entrance to the station until further notice.
The AMOS-6 satellite is linked to Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. The Israeli-made satellite was to provide communications services to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East as part of Zuckerberg's Internet.org initiative to bring home internet service to the area. It would have brought broadband internet and video distribution to the coverage area, according to Spacecom's website.
Nearby residents felt the explosion
"That's something that will stick with me for a very long time," said Bailey, the resident who lives near Kennedy Space Center and the Air Force Station.
"I always look at the water, because we have dolphins and everything out here. I was just looking out at the water and I see this giant plume of white smoke," Bailey said.
"It was pretty scary because you don't know how bad it's going to get."
Moments later, Bailey could feel the power of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in her living room.
"I just started praying, because we know a lot of people that work there and people that don't work there. I'm thinking we had a launch coming up. We have a problem," Bailey said.
Then there is the Neill family, visiting the Space Coast from New Jersey.
"I wanted to see the rocket go off," said Maddy Neill, 8.
"We're down here just a little over a week. We were really looking forward to seeing a rocket launch on Saturday morning. We've seen a few, and they're pretty neat, so we're a little disappointed that this one is not going to happen," said Maddy's father, Keith Neill.
Reporters Greg Pallone, Bailey Myers, John W. Davis and the Digital Media team contributed to this report.