CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX rocket exploded on a launch pad during a tanking test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Thursday morning, rocking buildings more than a mile away and sending a plume of billowing black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.
More than $250 million worth of equipment was lost in the explosion.
The rocket was carrying a six-ton, $195 million Israeli satellite, the AMOS-6, which was to provide broadband internet to the Middle East, Europe and parts of Africa.
As a joint venture, Facebook and Eutelsat had leased part of the satellite's bandwidth, which would be used to provide the internet service as part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative.
Launched two years ago, the Internet.org initiative's goal is to provide cost-effective broadband internet access to unconnected populations.
The Brevard County Office of Emergency Management said in a statement: ”The general public in Brevard County is not in any danger, and no evacuations have been recommended, as a result of an anomaly involving the Falcon 9 rocket at approximately 9:07 a.m. at Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.”
"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," a statement said. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
SpaceX later released more information on the anomaly that resulted in the explosion.
"The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle," the company said in a statement.
Titusville resident Mark Ahrens' home is nearly 30 miles from the site of the rocket explosion.
Even at that distance, he felt the force of the blast.
"We were sitting out back reading the paper and heard the explosion," he said. "We have patio sliding glass doors and it shook them."
Within the hour, the fire had burnt out and though there were hundreds of employees working at the time of the explosion, officials from SpaceX said no one was injured.
U.S. Rep. John Mica said he expected SpaceX to work hard to get back on its feet after the massive loss of equipment and payload.
"I am told already they are pretty much cleaning up the pad and ready to go again," Mica said. "I have pretty strong confidence in SpaceX. They have done some things just in the last few years that are almost (like) Buck Rogers in recovery of some of the rocket components and the launch schedule. They are going to put us back in space."
The cause of the explosion is unknown.
According to the SpaceX website, a tanking test involves "a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown operations, engine ignition operations and testing of the pad’s high volume water deluge system – providing a full dress rehearsal for the actual launch."
An employee at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station said the pad was clear of people when the explosion happened.
Brevard County Emergency Management said there is no threat to the general public as a result of the explosion.
“We are in communication on a very regular basis with the personnel out at the Space Center,” Brevard EOC spokeswoman Kimberly Prosser said. “We knew there was nothing on [the rocket] that could’ve been hazardous.”
Additional Falcon 9 launches were scheduled for 2016 -- five in Florida and four in California.
Musk hasn't commented on the program's future.
Space analysts said it's too early to know if the accident will impact Space X's plans for manned space flights.
Cox Media Group