In a major setback for SpaceX, a Falcon 9 launcher and its payload were destroyed in an explosion during a pre-launch test on 1st September. The pre-launch static fire test at Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 was being performed prior to the scheduled launch on 3rd September.
According to a SpaceX statement, “the anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle.” All personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries.
The payload for the launch was the Amos 6 satellite, a 5.5t platform intended for commercial TV and internet service. Eutelsat, in collaboration with Facebook, had planned to lease the satellite’s Ka-band payload covering Sub-Saharan Africa, with a view to launching broadband services from early 2017.
The launch would have represented the 29th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket. Another SpaceX launcher exploded two minutes after liftoff on 28th June 2015 with a Dragon capsule for the ISS. The company had logged nine successful flights since resuming launch operations on 22nd December.
SpaceX was already facing a tight schedule through the rest of the year, with around 10 launches planned over that period, including the first flight re-using a Falcon 9 recovered after launch. The impact of this latest setback remains to be determined.