Fallout mushrooms after SpaceX rocket explosion

The flames on the launchpad have been extinguished, but fallout from last week’s SpaceX rocket explosion continues to burn.

Over the weekend Israeli company Space Communication (or Spacecom) threatened to go after SpaceX for $50 million or a free flight after SpaceX blew up the Spacecom satellite that was on board the ill-fated rocket, Reuters reported. Spacecom shares dropped 9 percent after the explosion, and its equity was expected to drop by $30 million, according to the report.

And the fiery disaster may have cost Spacecom its planned $285 million sale to Chinese company Xinwei Technology Group — a deal that hinged on the successful launch of that Amos-6 communications satellite, The New York Times reported. Facebook was going to use the satellite as part of its plan to bring low-cost internet access to less-developed countries.

The explosion comes as space travel is increasingly becoming a commercial venture, and private companies are vying to edge into the field that previously was controlled exclusively by NASA, the military and other government programs. Experts say last Thursday’s bust could set back these efforts. NASA ended its shuttle program in 2011 and since then U.S. astronauts and equipment have hitched rides into space on Russian vehicles. NASA had expected to resume launching with U.S.-made boosters and capsules from SpaceX and Boeing in less than two years, The Wall Street Journal reported, but the explosion — coupled with other setbacks — could delay the process and force the U.S. to buy more seats on Russian rockets.

SpaceX has said it’s investigating the cause of the explosion. The blow-up damaged its launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“SpaceX’s business is robust, with approximately 70 missions on our manifest worth over $10 billion,” the company wrote in an online post after the explosion, which it referred to as an “anomaly.”

Meanwhile, a SpaceX explosion conspiracy theory has surfaced. In video of the event, a small object can be seen flying overhead just before the rocket is consumed by a fireball. Some on the internet say the object is a UFO, while others theorize it’s a government drone that fired a projectile and blew up the rocket. Or … it may have been a bird.

Photo: Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA said SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when a blast occurred. (AP/Marcia Dunn)

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