Satellite owner says SpaceX owes $50 mln or free flight

SpaceX could face £37m bill for satellite lost on Falcon 9 rocket which exploded: Israeli owners say Elon Musk’s firm must pay or offer a launch for free

  • Communications satellite was destined for launch by a SpaceX Falcon 9
  • But the rocket exploded during a test, destroying the satellite in the blast
  • Israeli firm Spacecom said it will claim damages from SpaceX and others
  • Elon Musk’s firm could be forced to offer a free satellite launch in future

Reuters

and
Ryan O’Hare for MailOnline

The Israeli owners of a satellite destroyed when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded last week said they could seek millions in damages from SpaceX. 

Spacecom said Elon Musk’s firm could face a £37m ($50m) bill or have to offer a free launch after its communications satellite was destroyed by an explosion on the launch pad in Florida last week.

Officials of the Israeli company said in a conference call with reporters yesterday that Spacecom also could collect £154m ($205m) from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the AMOS-6 satellite.

Israeli satellite firm Spacecom said SpaceX could face a £37m ($50m) bill or have to offer a free launch after its communications satellite was destroyed by an explosion on the launch pad in Florida last week. Pictured is a Falcon 9 rocket launching from Cape Canaveral in March this year

Israeli satellite firm Spacecom said SpaceX could face a £37m ($50m) bill or have to offer a free launch after its communications satellite was destroyed by an explosion on the launch pad in Florida last week. Pictured is a Falcon 9 rocket launching from Cape Canaveral in March this year

SATELLITE FIRM CLAIMING DAMAGES FROM SPACEX  

The Israeli owners of the destroyed AMOS-6 satellite have reportedly been hard hit by the loss.

In a press conference yesterday, Spacecom said it could seek $50m from SpaceX following the explosion on the launch pad last week. 

AMOS-6 was supposed to provide home internet for Africa and the Middle East. 

In addition, Facebook had signed a deal with Eutelsat to lease broadband capacity from the satellite as part of its efforts to increase internet connectivity across the African continent.

The explosion occurred last Thursday during a test in advance of the planned launch from from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, next to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. 

AMOS-6 was supposed to provide home internet for Africa and the Middle East.

But service arrangements had also been agreed with a number of key clients, including Facebook and Eutelsat Communications.

The Facebook deal involved the leasing of broadband capacity aboard the satellite as part of its efforts to increase internet connectivity across the African continent. 

SpaceX told Reuters it does not disclose contract or insurance terms.

The company is not public, and it has not said what insurance it had for the rocket or to cover launch pad damages beyond what was required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees commercial US launches, for liability and damage to government property.

The AMOS-6 satellite was aboard a Falcon 9 rocket which exploded last week

The incident happened during an engine test on the launch pad last week ahead of the planned launch

The Israeli firm could also collect £154m ($205m) from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the satellite

The AMOS-6 communications satellite was aboard a Falcon 9 rocket which exploded during a test fire in Florida last week, destroying the rocket and its cargo (pictured left to right)

Elon Musk's private space venture could face a bill of £37m following the explosion, however, the private firm has said it will not disclose terms of its contracts or insurance

Elon Musk’s private space venture could face a bill of £37m following the explosion, however, the private firm has said it will not disclose terms of its contracts or insurance

SpaceX has more than 70 missions on its manifest, worth more than £7.5 billion ($10bn), for commercial and government customers.

The space launch company is one of three major transportation and energy enterprises Musk leads. The others are electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc and SolarCity Corp , and Musk faces separate challenges at each of those money losing companies.

Spacecom has been hit hard in the aftermath of the Thursday explosion that destroyed the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload. 

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The Israeli company said the loss of the satellite would have a significant impact, with its equity expected to decline by £22.5m to £92m ($30m to $123m). Its shares dropped 9 per cent on Thursday, plummeting another 34 per cent when trading resumed on Monday morning.

In a conference call with reporters, Spacecom’s general counsel Gil Lotan said it was too early to say if the company’s planned merger with Beijing Xinwei Technology Group would proceed.

Xinwei last month agreed to buy Spacecom for £214m ($285m), saying the deal was contingent on the successful launch and operation of Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite.

‘We hope to continue fruitful communications with the prospective buyer,’ Lotan said. 

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Neither SpaceX, nor the FAA which is overseeing the investigation, have said how much damage the explosion caused at SpaceX’s primary launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX said on Friday that it would shift flights to a second launch site in Florida, which is nearing completion and which was last used to launch NASA’s space shuttles.

Thursday’s accident, which occurred as the company was fueling its rocket as part of a routine prelaunch test firing, was the second failed mission for Musk’s space company in 14 months. 

In June 2015, a Falcon 9 rocket exploded about two minutes after liftoff from Florida, destroying a load of cargo headed to the International Space Station.

SpaceX returned to flight in December and since then has flown nine times, all successfully. It was scheduled to fly for the 29th time on Saturday. 

SpaceX declined to comment about what impact Thursday’s accident would have on its schedule.