Facebook’s international advertising ambitions took a bit of a hit today after one of the company’s Internet.org satellites exploded on the launch pad, along with the Space X rocket intended to carry it to orbit. SpaceX has confirmed on Twitter that its Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the lauch pad roughly three minutes before its scheduled launch. According to the company there were no injuries in the explosion, since the pad was clear of personnel at the time of the incident.
“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” SpaceX said in a statement. “Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.
The rocket carried a new, $200 million Eutelsat satellite (AMOS-6) that was designed to help Facebook deliver wireless connectivity to portions of sub-Saharan Africa, a key component of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg s Internet.org initiative.
That initiative is focused on delivering connectivity to developing nations, but came under fire by activists in countries like India, who derided it for being little more than a net neutrality breaking quest for developing nation ad eyeballs buried under a veneer of Western altruism. A particular flash point was Facebook’s decision to offer a walled garden, zero rated solution that emphasized Facebook services instead of providing access to the full Internet.
Facebook’s deal with Eutelsat was estimated to be somewhere around $95 million, with Facebook nabbing a chunk of bandwidth for a period of roughly five years. The AMOS-6 deal was criticized at the time for being somewhat underwhelming given Facebook’s public statements about the plan. Obviously that deal is off, though Facebook’s losses will most certainly be insured.