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SpaceX Rocket Explodes On Launch Pad

Explosion during fueling of a Falcon 9 rocket. Photo: US Launch Report / YouTube
Explosion during fueling of a Falcon 9 rocket. Photo: US Launch Report / YouTube

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Witnesses say the explosion rattled buildings miles away from the launch pad. Flames and black smoke could be seen at the pad, and the plume of smoke was picked up by local radar.

“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," says SpaceX spokesperson John Taylor. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”

Officials say there is no threat to public safety.

Watch: USLaunchReport.com footage of the explosion at Launch Complex 40:

SpaceX planned to launch a communications satellite for Israeli operator AMOS this weekend. Officials say the explosion occurred during a pre-launch test-fire of the Falcon 9 engines. Both the rocket and satellite were destroyed.

In a tweet, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the anomaly originated at the upper stage oxygen tank during fueling. The SpaceX team continues to look into the root cause of the accident.

Space Florida's Dale Ketcham says if the anomaly is easily fixed, the Falcon 9 could return to flight shortly, but "the other unknown at this point which could be significant is damage to the pad. [Launch] pads are expensive and could take a while to fix." Thursday's accident happened at Launch Complex 40.

The accident follows a string of successes for SpaceX in recent months. It's landed sever first stage boosters after launch in the hopes of developing rocket re-usability. SpaceX planned to launch the company's first refurbished rocket later this year.

NASA says it's too early to tell if other launches are affected by the accident. United Launch Alliance planned to send the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to an asteroid next week.

SpaceX has not commented on the impact on future launches.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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