A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded while being fueled Thursday morning on a launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. No injuries resulted, but the rocket and its payload, an Israeli satellite named Amos-6, were destroyed. The explosion is a serious setback for SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk in 2002, and by extension for NASA, which has been investing in SpaceX for many years as part of the "commercial crew" program.
SpaceX has said it hopes to launch U.S. astronauts into orbit to the International Space Station by the end of next year. Boeing also has a NASA commercial contract to launch astronauts in a capsule on top of an Atlas V rocket. The United States has been unable to launch astronauts on American rockets since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
But an audit coincidentally issued Thursday by the NASA Inspector General's office said delays in the commercial crew program could push the first launch to late 2018, and have already forced NASA to buy additional seats on Russian rockets, at a cost to taxpayers of $490 million.
On Facebook Live, Washington Post reporters Chris Davenport and Joel Achenbach discussed the SpaceX explosion and its ramifications — including how it might have an effect on Musk's desire to put humans on Mars in the 2020s.