Facebook’s hopes of delivering free internet connectivity to parts of sub-Saharan Africa were dealt a blow when a rocket set to deliver the first Internet.org satellite into space exploded during a test firing.
The rocket, operated by aerospace company SpaceX, exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, completely destroying the rocket and its payload two days before the scheduled launch. Officials say the cause of the explosion is still unknown.
The Internet.org satellite, called AMOS-6, was set to deliver wireless connectivity to large portions of sub-Saharan Africa, a key element of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to provide basic internet to the entire world.
“We are disappointed by the loss,” a Facebook representative commented, “but we remain committed to our mission of connecting people to the internet around the world.”
Launch payloads are usually insured, so it’s unlikely Facebook will have to bear the financial cost of losing the satellite, but it’s an undoubted setback to the project.
Professor Loizos Heracleous from the Warwick Business School commented: “The latest explosion of a SpaceX Falcon rocket, following earlier explosions in January and June 2015, indicates the inherent unpredictability and risk involved in space flight, whether manned or unmanned, and whether missions are led by NASA or by commercial contractors.
“With space missions, even the most advanced simulations cannot replace learning by doing, given the multitude of variables involved and the importance of learning from experience. This explosion will not change the goal of SpaceX, which is to reduce the cost of space flight through the use of reusable rockets.”
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