back to article SpaceX blast kills Zuck's sat

A launchpad explosion at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida during a SpaceX rocket test has just destroyed Facebook's $200m Amos-6 satellite. Massive plumes of black smoke were seen streaming across the Air Force base. Elon Musk's aerospace company Space X was putting one of its Falcon 9 rockets through its paces when it blew …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seeing as this was a static firing test it would be interesting to know if the payload was on board or not...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They tweeted loss of the rocket and payload. So a very bad thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Might make more sense in future to do the static fire test sans payload. A useful risk management strategy.

        1. Vulch

          It's up to the customer. Having the payload already integrated means launch can be a day or two (was scheduled for the 3rd) later, static fire without payload means the rocket has to be lowered and taken back into the hanger for it to be fitted and is more like a 4 or 5 day turn around.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          I think the payload has to be assembled onto the rocket so it has to stand with the payload on.

          However, I think when a satellite is manufactured they usually make two, so there will be a backup ready to fly. Unfortunately.

          I'm pleased to see a scum outfit like Faecebook suffer a setback, though the bigger hit will be taken by the insurance underwriters.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            "However, I think when a satellite is manufactured they usually make two, so there will be a backup ready to fly. Unfortunately."

            Depends. A large geosat will cost something near $1billion. You don't build a spare one of those just in case. For such vehicles the launch cost is a comparatively small part of the overall programme costs.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              " A large geosat will cost something near $1billion."

              Each sat is almost handbuilt and designed from the ground up, even if there are now standard chassis.

              That cost is the _total_ development figure from go, through all the prototypes (usually dozens of such even with contemporary CAD systems and computer aided engineering), to the flight model

              " You don't build a spare one of those just in case"

              Of course you do. The incremental cost of doing so is a few million at most and after launch these flight spares become your test articles for procedures if/when anything goes wrong during the mission.

              The only time you don't have individual flight spares is when you're production-lining a number of birds for a constellation and even then they're catered to by making a few extra just in case.

              (Disclosure: I currently work in a space lab.)

  2. WonkoTheSane
    Alien

    This was NOT the recycled first stage, that's due to go up next month.

    That one was assigned to SES of Luxembourg.

    The one on the pad today was due to launch a satellite for Spacecom of Israel.

    Aliens, because there's no Giorgio Tsoukalos icon.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg
      Trollface

      Re: This was NOT the recycled first stage, that's due to go up next month.

      Well Spacecom, that's what you get for using rockets that haven't been flight tested.

  3. imanidiot Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Dang

    Lets hope no-one was around to get injured. As it seems the RUD happened during a static fire test it seems likely everyone was at a safe distance, but news reports seem to indicate it was one heck of a (series of) boom(s).

    Edit: its just been confirmed by spaceX no-one was injured as the pad was cleared for a static fire test, the vehicle and payload have been lost.

    Funny how Russia Today seems to have the most information compared to all the fearmongering US "news" agencies: https://www.rt.com/usa/357893-spacex-explosion-platform-launch/

    1. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

      Re: Dang

      From the RT site, it seems there is a silver lining. The payload was a Facebook satellite to "serve" Africa. Looks like Africa's assimilation has been postponed.

  4. richardcox13

    Some coverage elsewhere (eg. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37247077)

    Quote: "Local emergency officials described the incident as a 'catastrophic abort during a static test fire'."

    Sounds like an sudden unscheduled disassembly.

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Well, back to the drawing board... Rocket engineering isn't trivial. But the'll get there. And no one was hurt, that's the important thing. Looks like their safety procedures work, in that respect anyway.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      SpaceX isn't the one who determines safety procedures at Kennedy Space Center, NASA is.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge
        Headmaster

        No, actually this was at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and it's the USAF that determines safety procedures there.

    2. bazza Silver badge
  6. Sir Sham Cad

    [SpaceX] called the explosion an 'anomaly'.

    Nah, guv. That was supposed to 'appen innit? It's noooormal.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: [SpaceX] called the explosion an 'anomaly'.

      Well, it was sort of supposed to happen and it was normal. The rocket is just a big tube fulled with stuff that's supposed to burn.

      It did burn nicely, and very quickly. It's just that it's supposed to burn slowly rather than all at once.

      1. Francis Vaughan

        Re: [SpaceX] called the explosion an 'anomaly'.

        You will notice that they don't use the word "normal" in describing launches. They use the word "nominal". Nominal means you have nominated how it will fly. Normal is what usually happens. The goal of engineering is to make the two coincident. Sadly in pretty much the early part of any rocket system development "normal" means catastrophic failure.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: [SpaceX] called the explosion an 'anomaly'.

        "It's just that it's supposed to burn slowly rather than all at once."

        It's also supposed to burn at the blunt end, not near the pointy one.

  7. Tom Paine Silver badge
    FAIL

    slippage

    Couple of things,

    1. Presumably the pad will have been heavily damaged -- has that just slipped all their launch dates by 24 months?

    2. I saw a headline somewhere or other to the effect that the first crewed flights of their Dragon capsule to the ISS were on the docket. Can't see that not slipping. Would you get into that thing? OK, they've only had, what, five boosters go bang, now, is it? six?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: slippage

      Hell, I wouldn't use them to launch a satellite, let alone travel in it myself. Communications satellites often take 4-5 years from initial planning to launch, so having one blow up on the pad is a pretty serious setback. Now if it was a rather standard 'off the shelf' design, you can probably get a replacement fairly quickly, but if it is customized at all it is a major setback and not worth whatever discount SpaceX is offering versus the more established choices (which aren't 100% perfect themselves but blow up at a far lower rate than SpaceX)

    2. Francis Vaughan

      Re: slippage

      Might depend upon how much fuel was loaded for the test fire. The pics from the site seem to show a lot of structure still standing. It may not be nearly as bad as the failure of a fully fuelled vehicle.

      1. Vulch

        Re: slippage

        The static fire is also a full dress rehersal for launch. The full fuel load is put on board.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: slippage

        According to reports, they were in the process of fueling it. Upper stage oxygen tank appears to be the source. Since the motors hadn't been lit off, there's lots of room for discussion and searching for the answer. Might be something as simple as a spark from static electricity.

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Oops

    Perhaps Dev-Oops?

    Given the interest amongst El Reg readers for SpaceX and Musk himself, the disruption this may well cause to the SpaceX programme, I was surprised to see only a News Bytes mention.

    This seems to have been a mighty impressive kaboom; pleased to hear there are no injuries or worse.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Oops

      "This seems to have been a mighty impressive kaboom"

      All the moreso when you consider how hard kerosene is to light, and keep lit.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was a Facebook satellite..

    "How many times do I have to tell you never to utter the word privacy near one of our satellites, huh? How many times? Come on, speak? You had to say it, didn't you?"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $$$

    will SpaceX's insurance company pass all this off on to the American taxpayer now?

  11. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Pint

    Facebook satellite lost before launch

    ^Like

    1. LINCARD1000
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Facebook satellite lost before launch

      See icon, that is all :-D

  12. Sammy Smalls

    A partial success?

    Most of it will have landed back on the pad.

  13. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Time the US started to outsouce

    ISTM that it would be better to outsource all future space flights to India. Even if 4 out of 5 rockets blow up, it would still be cheaper judging by the cost of their Mars mission. India probably has a BOLOF deal as well (buy one, launch one free).

  14. Herby Silver badge

    "anomaly"

    Just another word for "oops, by bad!".

    This of course begs the question: Why does Facebook need a satellite?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Go

      Re: "anomaly"

      @Herby

      Facebook's annual report said the whole satellite has something to do with a missing orbital laser scientist and thousands of carats of smuggled diamonds.

      White persian cat, anyone?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "anomaly"

        Diamonds are intrinsically almost worthless. No villain would bother with them (If you have enough to matter, you also have enough to upset de Beers' carefully controlled cartel)

        As with London housing prices(*) they're expensive because of an artificial shortage of supply (de Beers buy a lot of gem-quality stuff and destroy it for sale as grinding paste simply to keep the prices up)

        (*) Or long distance prices in the 70s-90s when the growth in capacity was dictated by telcos instead of by customers.

        Iridium or Rhodium on the other hand. Those are expensive for good reason, highly saleable and extremely portable.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: "anomaly"

          @Alan Brown

          I think I hear a Whoosh there, as the point misses you.

          Marketing Hack was alluding to the plot of "Diamonds are Forever" and the diamonds are an essential part of the satellite...

  15. imanidiot Silver badge
    Mushroom

    It was the second stage

    Looking at a video of the event (https://youtu.be/_BgJEXQkjNQ) It seems the second stage went cablewy. The payload survived until it hit the ground several seconds later (It can actually be seen falling to the ground and then exploding)

    Looks like the launch tower and pad took some serious damage. No more SpaceX launches this year (and that means no Falcon Heavy this year).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019