A Facebook satellite intended to bring internet to unconnected parts of Africa was destroyed yesterday when the rocket carrying it exploded.
The Falcon 9 rocket, part of entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme, exploded on its launchpad on Thursday during a routine pre-flight engine test, destroying its payload. No one was injured in the incident.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, said in a post on the social media site: “I am deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”
The satellite was part of a collaboration with data and telecoms satellite provider Eutelsat, and one of several technologies Facebook is pursuing in its internet.org campaign. The internet giant hopes to increase online access in remote areas across the globe by using satellites and solar-powered drones to “beam internet access down… from the sky,” said Zuckerberg in a Facebook post in October.
“To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies”, he said.
After Thursday’s explosion, Zuckerberg said Facebook was still “committed to our missions of connecting everyone”, and said the company would “keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided”.
Eutelsat also released a statement reaffirming its commitment to providing a satellite based internet service over Africa. “[Eutelsat] will explore other options to serve the needs of key clients ahead of the launch of its own full high throughput African broadband satellite, due in 2019,” it said.
Facebook claims to have already connected more than 25m people to the internet who would otherwise not be online.
However, its attempt to provide internet has not always been welcomed. Earlier this year, Indian regulators blocked the company’s attempt to provide its “Free Basics” service to rural parts of the country because the service only allowed access to certain sites, including Facebook.