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SpaceX Rocket Explodes on Launch Pad

Credit: NBC News (via twitter)
Credit: NBC News (via twitter) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

by BEN POPKEN – A SpaceX rocket exploded on the launchpad shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday in Cape Canaveral, Florida, destroying the rocket and the communications satellite it had been set to carry into orbit this Saturday.

"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. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries," SpaceX spokesman Phil Larson told NBC News in an email.

The explosion rocked the test site at Space Launch Complex 40 at the Kennedy Space Center and sent billowing plumes of smoke into the atmosphere.

SpaceX was preparing for its next launch, scheduled for Saturday morning, to carry the Amos 6 satellite into orbit for Israeli satellite operators Spacecom.

SpaceX conducts static fire tests of a rocket's engines before every launch to ensure everything is running smoothly before launch day.

NASA spokesman Al Feinberg said emergency personnel were monitoring the situation and standing by to assist, and the air quality was being monitored for any potential threats to employees.