SpaceX Rocket Explodes at Launchpad in Cape Canaveral
A SpaceX rocket carrying a communications satellite exploded on the launchpad Thursday morning, dealing a major blow to Facebook’s plans for expanding internet services in Africa.
The Falcon 9 rocket, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, was scheduled for launch on Saturday, and its payload included a satellite for Spacecom, an Israeli company. Facebook had arranged to use the satellite, once it was in orbit, to provide web connectivity to parts of the world that have little if any internet.
这枚猎鹰9号(Falcon 9)火箭原计划于周六在佛罗里达州卡纳维拉尔角空军基地(Cape Canaveral Air Station)发射，装载物包括一枚以色列Spacecom公司的卫星。Facebook本已确定要使用该卫星，待其进入轨道后可以向一些甚少乃至没有互联网接入的地区提供网络。
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, expressed his concern in a strongly worded post on his page.
“As I’m here in Africa, 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,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote.
For his part, Elon Musk, the technology entrepreneur and head of SpaceX, tweeted a rather brief explanation of the incident, which occurred during preparations for a test firing of the rocket’s engines: “Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation. Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon.”
The company has had problems in the past with its Falcon 9, one of which fell apart during a launch a little more than a year ago.
Mr. Musk not only runs SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., but is also the chief executive of Tesla, the electric car company. SpaceX developed the Falcon 9 rocket, largely with NASA financing, for cargo missions, but has also built a large business launching commercial satellites into orbit.
除了执掌SpaceX，也就是总部位于加州霍桑市的太空探索科技公司(Space Exploration Technologies Corporation)，马斯克还是电动汽车公司特斯拉(Tesla)的首席执行官。SpaceX主要依靠航空航天局(NASA)的资金研发了用于载货的猎鹰9号，但同时也在从事将商业卫星送上轨道的大规模业务。
Beginning as early as next year, NASA also has plans to use the Falcon 9 rocket to carry astronauts, and cargo, to the International Space Station. The explosion on Thursday could push that timetable back.
The destruction of the rocket’s payload, the satellite called Amos-6, puts a significant damper on Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, a grand plan spearheaded by Mr. Zuckerberg to provide wireless connectivity to nations across the world that do not otherwise have easy access to the internet.
In a partnership with Eutelsat, a French satellite provider, Facebook planned to use Amos-6 to offer internet access coverage to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Along with satellite coverage, Facebook is partnering with local internet providers to offer access, and is also building its own drones — the first of which is named Aquila — to beam internet connectivity down to cities from the sky.
Details of Thursday morning’s rocket failure trickled out on Twitter and other sites. A webcam at the NASA Kennedy Space Center showed billowing smoke rising into the sky from the SpaceX launchpad, and nearby residents reported feeling vibrations from the explosion.
有关周四上午火箭事故的细节渐渐通过Twitter等网站上流出。NASA肯尼迪航天中心(Kennedy Space Center)的一个摄像头拍摄到SpaceX发射平台正冒起滚滚浓烟，附近居民称可以感受到爆炸的震动。
NASA confirmed that the incident at Space Launch Complex 40 occurred shortly after 9 a.m., and said it was monitoring the air quality in the area around the center.
It was the second mishap for the Falcon 9. In June last year, a rocket carrying NASA cargo to the International Space Station fell apart in-flight when a strut holding a helium bottle snapped, setting off a cascade of events that destroyed the rocket moments later.
On the same day as Thursday’s explosion, a report released by NASA’s inspector general said both SpaceX and Boeing, the other company that NASA has hired to carry astronauts into space, are likely to face additional delays in their launch schedules. The crewed launches were originally to begin last year, but now are unlikely to begin before the second half of 2018, the inspector general said.
The company lists about 40 launches of satellites and other cargo on its manifest for commercial companies, NASA and the United States Air Force.