An explosion occurred during a SpaceX fueling operation at its launch site in Florida around 9:07 a.m. Eastern today, destroying a satellite that Facebook intended to use to provide internet connectivity to rural Africa, SpaceX officials and local authorities said.
The Falcon 9 rocket and its $200m (£150m) satellite payload were destroyed in the blast, which happened while the rocket was being test-fired just after 1pm.
SpaceX said no-one was injured and blamed an “anomaly” on the launchpad for the explosion.
It added that the fault occurred “during propellant loading of the vehicle”.
The Israeli AMOS-6 satellite destroyed in the blast was set to be part of a Facebook scheme to provide internet coverage to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
In a statement the social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was “deeply disappointed”.
Mr Zuckerberg added: “We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”
Elon Musk’s SpaceX had been due to launch the rocket at dawn on Saturday.
The force of the explosion shook buildings several miles away, and a thick cloud of smoke was seen rising from the launch site near NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre.
SpaceX is one of two companies shipping supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.
SpaceX has also lost several rockets while attempting lands them upright on ocean platforms.
However it successfully landed a Falcon 9 on a floating drone ship last month, after the rocket sent a Japanese communications satellite into orbit.