The fledgling Israeli space program suffered a major setback on Thursday when the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket, set to carry the Amos-6 communications satellite into orbit, exploded on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida two days before the scheduled launch.
People in buildings far from the facility wrote on social media that they felt the blast, and posted images showing flames and a plume of thick black smoke coming from the site.
In what may be the understatement of the year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was “deeply disappointed” that his $200 million satellite was destroyed in the blast. In November 2015, the company’s Amos 5 satellite was “lost”, and all communications with it ceased.
SpaceCom recently closed a deal to sell itself to Chinese satellite firm Xinwei, but observers said that the Chinese firm could reconsider the deal.
He told Israeli Channel 10 television that it might take three years to build a replacement.
The satellite was to have been used by Israeli communications companies, including Bezeq and Yes, as well as a slew of foreign companies, including Facebook, which was planning to use the satellite to build a wireless data network throughout northern and central Africa.
The Israel Space Agency, part of the country’s science ministry, said that “support for the space industry in Israel will continue with the aim of continuing at the forefront of technology”.
It said Science Minister Ofir Akunis would convene industry leaders tomorrow for “an emergency debate and situation report”.
David Zusiman, former project manager for the Amos 3 and 4 satellite projects and involved with the early stages of Amos 6, said the explosion was a setback but not necessarily a disaster. The company is not public, and it has not disclosed what insurance it had for the rocket or to cover launch pad damages beyond what they were required to buy by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial USA launches, for liability and damage to government property.
“The problem is that Amos 6 was supposed to replace Amos 2 which is now quite old and needs replacing”, Zusiman said. Also, he mentioned that now, more than 50% of the world does not have access.
from Department of Rocket Launches