SpaceX Satellite Crash Destroys Facebook Internet Expansion Program

September 1st 2016

Tricia Tongco

On Thursday morning, a SpaceX rocket exploded during fueling at its Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida. It was the second failed mission by the space exploration company in little more than a year, according to Bloomberg.

The explosion wasn't just a setback for SpaceX; a satellite on the rocket was part of an initiative by Facebook to spread internet spread internet access in Africa, reports Bloomberg. In a Thursday afternoon post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his reaction to the loss of the satellite:

"As I'm here in Africa, 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.
Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well. We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided."

The satellite was part of a partnership between Facebook, the French satellite company Eutelsat, and the Israeli firm Spacecom to provide wireless Internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa, which is partly a strategic move to expand their user bases in developing regions, according to the Post. Zuckerberg first announced the project in a Facebook post in October 2015, stating, "Connectivity changes lives and communities. We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world — even if that means looking beyond our planet."

According to a 2014 World Bank report, Sub-Saharan Africa trails the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with only 19.2 percent of the population able to get online (compared to 87.3 percent in North America). Pew Research has found a strong correlation between a country's wealth and internet access, explaining the lack of internet penetration in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. According to a 2016 report by Pew, "only a quarter of the adult population across the nine African nations surveyed has internet access."

Read Zuckerberg's full post here.