SpaceX Explosion a Setback, But Ambitious Program Continues

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

The news of an unmanned test rocket from private spaceflight company SpaceX exploding mid-flight Friday served as a reminder that the pursuit of extraterrestrial travel is not without risks. The destruction of the spacecraft, which the company said was deliberate after an "anomaly" was detected, involved a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R for short) rocket. It caused no injuries and only limited damage to the flight area, but it is arguably the program's highest-profile failure by far.

SpaceX, started by billionaire Elon Musk in 2002, is the most successful non-government space program out there: It was the first private company to launch a spacecraft to orbit and recover it, first to rendezvous with the International Space Station, and first to drop a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. The occasional failure comes with the spacecraft-testing territory, and it's amazing that SpaceX has come so far without a setback. Notably, the failure happened during an unmanned internal test, and no payload was lost.

Undaunted, Musk deadpanned in a tweet: "Rockets are tricky..."



—Devin Coldewey