SpaceX and Facebook have been doing their best to play down the impact of the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, with both companies expressing “sadness.”
But there can be little doubt that this will mean a momentum shift for both the SpaceX program and Facebook’s Internet.org project, tasked with providing connectivity to the poorest people in the world. A satellite for Internet.org was part of the payload on the Falcon 9.
The satellite, Amos 6, was designed to fill gaps in Internet.org’s express Wi-Fi system, which connects rule areas with providers of mainstream Internet. More than that, it offers local entrepreneurs in places like India, the opportunity to work with Facebook and act as an ambassador for full Internet connectivity, stimulating economic growth and increasing the digital footprint in developing countries.
The Express Wi-Fi project, is far less divisive than Internet.org’s other project – Free Basics, which offer Internet connectivity to extremely poor parts of the world – but will be limited to only a select group of applications and sites. Many have said, this approach is a breach of the cornerstones of Internet best practice, and by limiting people to certain sites, internet.org is committing the worst of all tech crimes – censorship.
In fact, immediately following the explosion, conspiracy theories quickly surfaced of an intentional attack by Free Basics opponents. However, this was quickly dispelled – the satellite’s purpose was nothing to do with Free Basics, and, according to satellite launch experts this is not an uncommon occurrence.
Apparently, 1 in 20 satellite launches results in a complete loss of the payload. Launch experts point to inconsistent weightings and a lack of safety factors that are usually involved when humans are onboard. Regardless, it’s an expensive exercise for anyone – even a business with the resources that Facebook and SpaceX possess.

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