What Does The SpaceX Falcon 9 Explosion Mean For The Space Industry?

A Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its launch pad this week destroying a $200 million satellite, but the ripple affects might be felt through the entire space industry.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explosion occurred during a static fire pre-launch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for unknown reasons destroying its Amos-6 satellite payload.

An anomaly in the rocket’s second stage, which uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel, sparked a massive fireball that consumed the Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was quick to point out the explosion was actually a “fast fire not an explosion,” but whatever it’s called the result is the same: the destruction of a $62 million rocket.

As news of the Falcon 9 explosion broke, the stock value of Elon Musk’s company’s Tesla and SolarCity plummeted a combined $390 million, according to the Daily Mail.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook was also affected when the $200 million Amos-6 satellite was destroyed as the company was planning to use it to provide free internet access to 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East, reports the New Yorker.

“I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”

There will now be an investigation into the cause of the explosion, fast fire, involving the U.S. Air Force and any extended downtime means delays for the other eight Falcon 9 launches planned for this year.

[SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket photo by NASA via Getty Images]
Although there was no government cargo onboard the rocket when it exploded, the Air Force regularly relies on SpaceX to launch its military and national security satellites into orbit, as Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told SpaceNews.

“The U.S. Air Force will continue working with SpaceX to ensure confidence in the safe and reliable launch of critical national security space satellites.”

NASA also relies heavily on SpaceX, the company has been contracted to carry astronauts and cargo on resupply missions to the International Space Station. One such rocket exploded in June of last year 139 seconds into its flight.

The investigation into the cause of the explosion will affect an ISS resupply mission planned for November. The resupply complication adds to NASA’s trouble as the space agency is already dealing with delays in a Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft launch and Japanese H-2 Transfer Vehicle spacecraft delay, according to SpaceNews.

The destruction of the Falcon 9 rocket will affect more than just the government agencies, however, there’s a long list of private companies that were planning to use Space X rockets to get their satellites into orbit.

The destruction of the Amos-6 satellite could jeopardize the acquisition of Spacecom by Chinese conglomerate Beijing Xinwei Technology Group.

The delay during the investigation will also affect Iridium, a Virginia communications company, which contracted Space X to launch the first 10 satellites of its new telecommunications network.

[Falcon 9 rocket test launch photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images]
Also affected is Luxembourg based SES, a global satellite services provider; EchoStar, KT Corp. of South Korea, and Taiwan’s National Space Program Office. The Space X rocket ride sharing program means Spaceflight’s Sherpa secondary payload carrying an amazing 90 small satellites will also be delayed.

For Space X itself, the affects of the explosion are less clear. The company was planning to test fly an uncrewed Dragon capsule next year along with a crewed test flight to the ISS later in the year. Those test flights will probably be delayed as will Musk’s plans to colonize Mars.

The Falcon 9 explosion has also launched a series of conspiracy theories after video of the scene appeared to show a strange object flying overhead directly before the rocket was destroyed.

What do you think about the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket and its affect on Space X?

[AP Photo/Marcia Dunn]

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