Facebook's Web Satellite Explodes During Pre-Launch

Facebook’s first Web satellite experiment just went up in smoke. Quite literally, the social giant’s virgin satellite was destroyed in an explosion that took place during a SpaceX pre-launch test, on Thursday.

“I'm deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite, which would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” stated Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The satellite was unmanned, and as of Thursday afternoon, there are no reported injuries associated with the explosion.

Part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, the satellite was designed to deliver Web service to under-served regions of the globe. It was valued at roughly $200 million, according to an estimate from space news publisher Spaceflight Now.

The setback will not deter Facebook from pushing forward with it broader plans to connect the world to the Web, Zuckerberg said on Thursday.

“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he said.

Internet.org -- which is referred to as Free Basics in some regions -- has suffered several setbacks. Most recently, as part of a ruling in favor of Net neutrality, Indian telecom regulators decided to block Free Basics from the country.

At the end of 2015, Egyptian authorities also pulled the plug on the free Internet service for reasons that they never fully articulated.

Key to Facebook’s long-term strategy, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly defended the Free Basics program.

In a letter publi shed in the Times of India, last December, Zuckerberg wrote: “If we accept that everyone deserves access to the Internet, then we must surely support free basic Internet services.”

Late last year, Facebook enlisted the help of French satellite operator Eutelsat to have free Internet beamed to some of the more remote regions of Africa.

Earlier this year, the Web giant invited the world’s engineering and technology leaders to help reimagine the telecommunications business. With the formation of a Telecom Infra Project, Facebook said it hoped to enlist a critical mass of operators, infrastructure providers, system integrators, and other technology companies in the effort.

So far, Telecom Infra Project -- or TIP -- members include Intel, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom.

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