What Does The Explosion Mean For Elon Musk And SpaceX

Published: 6 September 2016Updated: 20 August 2023

SpaceX’s future doesn’t look that bright now that it has experienced another failed launch

About a week ago, a standard test firing of a SpaceX rocket failed miserably and ended with an intense explosion.

The explosion wrecked both the rocket and its payload. Other pieces of equipment such as a communications satellite also went up in smokes.

Facebook had initially planned to utilize the spaceX rocket to carry its satellite which would have enabled the company to beam free internet in regions such as Africa.

As the dust from the event begins to settle, the same can’t be said about SpaceX’s future. The company now has a big black spot on its reputation and will have to work harder than ever to eclipse the likes of Blue Origin, which is another space program launched by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The explosion which caused the disaster took place around 9 am on Thursday at SpaceX’s dedicated launchpad that is based at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.

The Falcon 9 rocket, which was going to be used to deliver an Israeli Spacecom communications satellite, was supposed to take off on the morning of Saturday.

Sadly, the aforementioned satellite had already been installed on the rocket for the test firing. Needless to say, the satellite also got destroyed as the rocket burst into a huge fire seconds before launch.

Spacecom spokesperson, Jay Shuman, said that he could not discuss the event which caused the loss of the company’s payload. He didn’t talk about the involved contractors or who will end up paying for the destroyed satellite.

Though as of yet it is unclear if SpaceX or Spacecom would have to cough up the money for the related damages.

Shuman told Gizmodo through an email conversation that in general there was a very active insurance industry which surrounded the space industry.

As mentioned before, Facebook was one of the companies that had a contract with Spacecom for transporting its communications satellite.

Facebook wanted to use the communications satellite in its bid to push free internet in certain regions of Africa.

Facebook’s spokesperson told Gizmodo that the explosion did not hinder the company’s plans of introducing free internet to thousands of people across Africa. He also said that the only unclear part of the whole situation was that which other satellite would Facebook use for its next attempt to bring free internet to the continent.

Gizmodo was also told that Facebook as a company was disappointed by the loss of its satellite but remained strong willed and dedicated to the company’s mission of connecting people to the Internet around the globe.

Facebooks CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had a similar message to give after the explosion incident and said that he was deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed the company’s satellite which would have provided internet connectivity to many entrepreneurs and everyone else on the African continent.

Zuckerberg further added that fortunately, Facebook had developed other technologies such as Aquila that would connect people as well. He finished off by saying that the company would continue to work until everyone had the opportunities that the destroyed satellite would have provided.

It is safe to assume that it will be SpaceX, and not Facebook, that comes out of this predicament worse off than before.In other words, the explosion of SpaceX’s rocket could prove to be destructive for the company’s future as well.

Most of you would know that Cap Canaveral is one of the many launchpads that SpaceX has available for its missions. For example, the company also has the capability to launch Falcon 9 rockets from its West Coast facilities.

However, SpaceX can’t just move to the other launchpad and launch another one of its Falcon 9 rockets. The process is much more complex than that.

One reason SpaceX can’t move forward quickly from this incident is that, as of now, there have been no reasons given for the failure of the rocket or why the rocket actually exploded.

Add to that the fact that SpaceX would face considerable scheduling issues if it indeed tries to move fast in its attempt to launch another one of those Falcon 9 rockets.

Regardless, SpaceX has arranged for another Falcon 9 rocket launch from its Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The plan is scheduled for September 19 or 20.

All signs indicate that any date that falls within September is too soon. There is also another planned launch of SpaceX’s used Falcon 9 rockets into the orbit using the Cape Canaveral Air Force base.

It is hard to believe that there won’t be any delays in those plans since SpaceX has about eight more launches planned between now and the December of this year. Most of the launches don’t have any specific dates yet.


The Falcon 9 explosion also hurt Facebook since its satellite was also destroyed in the process.

SpaceX has not commented on how Thursday’s disaster will impact SpaceX’s future plans for this year. The company also hasn’t spoken about the damages that were caused by the Falcon 9 explosion.

However, the 45th Space Wing, which is the Air Force Base that services Cap Canaveral, is reported to be investigating the damage caused by Thursday’s explosion at the site.

Teri Spencer, who is a spokesperson for the 45th Space Wing, told reporters that currently, the concentration was on ensuring that there was no threat to public safety.

He continued and said that it was also one of the objectives to make sure that everything was contained and now, they were going to assess the damage.

Moreover, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also said that they were looking into the incident to determine if the explosion incident would affect any of its own future launch plans.

Mike Curie, who is the Kennedy Space Center’s News Chief, told reporters that NASA was indeed assessing SpaceX’s failed launch event to know how the incident would affect any upcoming missions.

Readers should also know that this isn’t the first time SpaceX has seen a failed launch event. In fact, this isn’t even the first time the company has endured an exploding rocket either.

In 2015, SpaceX’s CRS-7 mission burst into flames moment after its launch. That event, just like this one, also destroyed the cargo that the mission was supposed to deliver to the International Space Station (ISS).

However, SpaceX commissioned a full investigation of the rocket’s explosion and as a result, eventually, it changed a specific strut that was used to build Falcon 9 rocket.

Elon Musk tweeted recently that the loss of Falcon vehicle was because of a propellant fill operation.

It is unclear if SpaceX will be able to convince the public that the explosion happened because of an anomaly rather than a technical failure.

On Friday, which was one day after the explosion event, Elon Musk came out and said that the Falcon 9 rocket was not destroyed by an explosion. He tweeted that it was because of a really fast fire.

Musk, who is the founder of SpaceX, also said that SpaceX Dragon capsule’s escape pod would have been sturdy enough to handle the same fire that exploded Falcon 9.

The escape pod feature is something that SpaceX has been testing for some time now and the purpose of the pod is to facilitate missions that involve a larger crew.

SpaceX says that in the event of a failure, the crew would be able to eject itself using the escape pods which would be similar to an ejection seat for a fighter pilot.

The only difference would be that the crew would be protected by the escape pod.


Musk is adamant that his company can come back from this setback.

As indicated before, SpaceX has already done some extensive testing for how its space capsule deals with a jettison but now the company is likely to study data from the explosion that took place about a week ago in order to understand how the Dragon capsule should work in order to protect the crew onboard.

Now it has been revealed that Elon Musk’s SpaceX might have to pay its client $50 million to make up for the damages that were caused by the explosion of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Either that or SpaceX has to provide a free light into space on its next mission.

Elon Musk himself has lost about $779 million since Thursday when the explosion event occurred but his shrunken fortunes can be traced to the drop in stock prices for his other companies including SolarCity and Tesla Motors.

Space Communication Ltd, which is an Israeli company, stated during a conference on Sunday that the company could seek compensation for the damages it suffered because of the failed SpaceX rocket launch.

Space Communication Ltd lost a new Amos-6 communications satellite during SpaceX Falcon 9’s eruption.

This satellite is the same satellite that Facebook had leased earlier in order to provide free internet to sub-Saharan African regions.

SpaceX has made no comments on Spacecom’s (the Israeli firm that lost its equipment in the fire) statement but did note that the company did not discuss contracts or insurance terms in public.

Needless to say, SpaceX’s failure to launch another of its rockets doesn’t look impressive on its resume.

SpaceX did begin investigations to find out the root cause of the failed launch mission. SpaceX’s last successful launch was back in May when the company managed to land a Falcon 9 rocket on a floating barge.

That landing meant that SpaceX could look forward to reusing space rockets and hence save a lot of money on its future missions.

Of course, recent events will impact those plans heavily.



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