A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its commercial satellite payload were destroyed by an explosion at their launch pad in Florida early Thursday (Sept. 1) during typically routine test.
The explosion occurred shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), as SpaceX was preparing to launch the Amos 6 communications satellite for the Israeli company Spacecom on Saturday, Sept. 3. At the time, SpaceX was conducting a static fire engine test on the Falcon 9. Such tests, which typically precede each SpaceX launch, involve firing the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage engines while the booster remains secured to the launch pad.
"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," SpaceX representatives wrote in a statement. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
NASA webcam images of the SpaceX rocket's launch site — Space Launch Complex 40 — at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station - showed a massive plume of black smoke over the pad Thursday morning.
US EVA37: Twitter user Ian Dawson posts this shot: pic.twitter.com/s28GCs10V3— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) September 1, 2016
NASA says SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred Thursday morning. pic.twitter.com/Bc7kNiq6E0— WESH 2 News (@WESH) September 1, 2016
The Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage booster designed to launch satellites and SpaceX's Dragon space capsules into orbit. The rocket stands 229 feet tall (70 m) and is uses rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen for propellant.
The first stage of Falcon 9 is powered by nine Merlin rocket engines, while the second stage has a single engine for to make the final push into orbit with payloads. It is the first stage of Falcon 9 that SpaceX would be testing during Thursday's static fire operation.
SpaceX has had a long string of successful missions with the Falcon 9 rocket, with only one major failure. In May 2015, a Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon cargo ship for NASA exploded shortly after liftoff. SpaceX traced the problem to a faulty strut and made upgrades before resuming commercial and NASA flights.
Editor's note: This story, originally posted at 9:38 a.m. ET, was updated to include details SpaceX's official statement on the explosion, which cited a pad anomaly not the Falcon 9 rocket itself, and more details on the booster.
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