This morning, as SpaceX was testing an unmanned rocket in preparation for a launch on Saturday, an explosion erupted sending a dark plume of smoke into the air. "Buildings several miles away shook from the blast, and multiple explosions continued for several minutes," according to the Associated Press. The explosion happened on the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
"SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's standard pre-launch static fire test, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload," said the company on its official Twitter feed. "Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
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The US Air Force says that they have set up roadblocks around CCAFS as they respond to the event.
The rocket, the ninth Falcon 9 rocket SpaceX would be putting up this year, was meant to deliver Israeli company Spacecom's Amos-6 communications satellite to orbit. The satellite was part of Facebook's Internet.org initiative and was meant to make Internet access available to millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, but is now lost.
As part of its routine preparations for the launch, the company does what's called a "static fire test," which means it burns the rocket's engines while holding it in place with tethers. That's the test that was scheduled today and it's unclear exactly what went wrong to cause the explosion.
The explosion comes a little over a year after another SpaceX rocket went up in a fireball. That rocket was carrying supplies to the International Space Station and failed about two minutes after liftoff.
New Atlas will continue to follow this story and provide additional information as it becomes available.
The video below shows the Falcon 9 being blown apart (at around 1:00 minute).
Additional reporting by Nick Lavars, New Atlas