Thursday morning, September 1, around 9:07 AM EDT at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a SpaceX rocket was undergoing static test firing in preparation for a Saturday launch of the AMOS-6 satellite. The rocket exploded on the launch pad destroying the satellite and damaging the launch site. No one was injured.
I remember when rocket launches, even those that were not carrying people, were a news worthy event. Today launching things into space has become pretty routine. In 2015, there were 86 launch attempts with 5 failures (). Thus far this year there have been 54 with only 1 failure (). Thursday’s explosion, while not technically a launch failure, since it was not an attempt to launch, is still in the same category in terms of significance and a pretty rare event in its own right. The last time a launch pad test firing failure occurred at the Kennedy Space Center was back in 1959. ().
With everyone and their brother wanting to get into the space business these days, events such as Thursday’s explosion highlights the fact that it is inherently risky to place satellites into orbit. Satellites have become smaller allowing lots of them to be launched simultaneously. As a result, the number of individual satellites being planned has grown incredibly in recent years. But the primary means of getting them into orbit is still through the use of the controlled explosion known as a rocket. It is a thing of beauty when it all goes according to plan. When it does not, the rocket and all of its contents experience a condition Elon Musk seems to have popularized known as Rapid Unplanned Disassembly (RUD) ().
Today’s high technology world moves at such a rapid pace that everyone, exactEarth included, pushes to bring new solutions and services into place faster and faster. With an ever increasing amount of high technology satellites relying on the use of controlled explosions (rockets) to enable them to become useful, we at exactEarth understand and agree that time should be taken to determine how last Thursday’s unfortunate explosion happened and what should be done to prevent its recurrence with SpaceX or with any other launch provider. The space industry is watching SpaceX’s investigation closely with the hopes of preventing this type of event from happening again. Here at exactEarth, we certainly don’t want any portion of ‘exactView RT powered by Harris’, our generation 2 satellite constellationto experience RUD.
The initial launch and deployment of our exactView RT is scheduled to launch on September 19 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A series of 6 more launches are scheduled over the subsequent 12-18 months to complete deployment of the constellation. We do not currently have any information as to whether Thursday’s explosion at the Kennedy Space Center will delay the initial launch. When we do, we will provide an appropriate update.