Facebook’s Aquila Critical for Free Internet After SpaceX Explosion : Zuckerberg Undeterred, Musk Awaiting Root Cause


Did Facebook rely on SpaceX too much for delivering internet connectivity to the masses as part of its Internet.org initiative? Or is Elon Musk’s SpaceX program just too risky? Is Elon Musk involved in too many projects with SpaceX, Tesla and now SolarCity? Or whether the explosion of the SpaceX rocket which was carrying Facebook’s AMOS-6 satellite at Cape Canaveral this week is just an example of cost of innovation for such magnanimous projects?

Whatever the case may be, it certainly has delivered setback to Facebook’s plan of launching the AMOS-6 satellite to deliver internet to millions in Africa. In October, 2015 Mark Zuckerberg wrote in excitement:

As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.


Mark Zuckerberg was going to announce the launch of the AMOS-6 on Saturday, September 3rd during his trip to Africa. Two days before his planned announcement, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket went in flames along with the AMOS-6 payload. Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX and is intended for the reliable and safe transport of satellites. Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon satellite into the correct orbit. The success was probably one of the reasons Facebook partnered with SpaceX. The mishap has disappointed Mark but he is not deterred in his mission to deliver internet to the masses :


Aquila at CenterStage


With this accident, the spotlight falls on Aquila, a high-altitude unmanned aircraft or a large drone that runs on solar power and can remain in the air for up to three months at a time and beam internet communication to earth. Read more about Aquila which just completed a successful test flight. We can expect increased Facebook investment in Aquila as an alternative to satellite based programs.

SpaceX and Elon Musk Response

Both SpaceX and Elon Musk took to twitter to explain their position on the accident. The only positive in the message below is that nobody was hurt.


Elon Musk tweeted and tried to stay clear from the root cause of the problem as well:


This is not a story of Facebook vs SpaceX or Zuckerberg vs Musk or how Elon Musk’s fortune are getting impacted negatively. It is a story about innovation which goes through multiple ups and downs with unpredictable costs until things become acceptable and stable. Same will happen with the mission of delivering free internet to billions in the world.

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