Elon’s Embarrassing Gaffe Dampens Facebook’s (FB) Internet Initiative

Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious internet.org project turned into a great ball of fire, literally.

facebook satellite

Last month, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) announced new plans to provide broadband connection to selected African nations. The initiative is also designed to offer connectivity to the Middle East and Europe. But it looks like Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook will have to wait a while longer or try other methods to gain more users who live way beyond the range of terrestrial networks.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket, which was supposed to deliver Facebook’s Amos-6 communication satellite into space exploded into smithereens during test firing Thursday morning. The satellite was leased in partnership with Eutelsat from Israeli-based Spacecom for $95 million for five years. The incident occurred at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Watch the dramatic explosion here.

With the Amos-6, Zuckerberg was hoping to gain more users in the sub-Saharan Africa, where population is at 84 million. The explosion is a major setback to Facebook and Elon Musk as the Internet.org is the social network’s most ambitious project to date.

In a statement, a Facebook rep said: “We are disappointed by the loss but remain committed to our mission of connecting people to the Internet around the world.”

Meanwhile, SpaceX confirmed that an anomaly caused the Amos-6 explosion:

“At approximately 9:07 am ET, during a standard pre-launch static fire test for the Amos-6 mission, there was an anomaly at SpaceX’ Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40, resulting in the loss of a vehicle.

The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tank and occurred during the propellant loading of the vehicle. Per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and there were no injuries. We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause. Additional updates will be provided as they become available.”

Although Facebook’s grand plan stays grounded, Spacecom reportedly purchased insurance on behalf of Eutelsat and the social network will be covering any project-related risks, including the launch and first year of orbit of the Amos- 6.

“I’m 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,” said Zuckerberg in a statement. “Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well,” he said.

The Facebook founder and CEO is currently in Nairobi, Kenya, meeting with entrepreneurs and developers to discuss a possible mobile payments project – and to try the local cuisine.

“I had lunch in Nairobi with Joseph Mucheru, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Information and Communications,” Zuckerberg wrote in the post. “We talked about internet access and his ambitious plans for connecting everyone in Kenya.”

“We ate at MAMA Oliech Restaurant. — a local place everyone recommended. One of my favorite parts of traveling to a new country is trying the food. I enjoyed ugali and a whole fried tilapia for the first time and loved them both!” Zuckerberg wrote in his latest update.

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