Earlier today, a SpaceX rocket exploded in fantastic fashion before it was set to take off from Cape Canaveral this morning. The spacecraft and its payload were both destroyed. Included in that payload was Facebook’s first satellite, which would have provided internet access to parts of Africa.
Mark Zuckerberg, who grows stronger figuratively and physically with each passing solar cycle, was not pleased. He wrote quite the subtweet on Facebook:
As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.
Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well. We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.
Look, there are no winners here. Mark Zuckerberg lost a satellite, and SpaceX owner Elon Musk lost a rocket. Both of them are very rich and they’ll be fine so it’s tough to feel sympathy. The residents of sub-Saharan Africa deprived of controversial Facebook-gated internet access will still theoretically be receiving it in the form of laser drones.
At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg might not want to talk too much shit about SpaceX, given their general status as the cheapest private spaceflight company. They’ve held that status since 2012, when Air & Space wrote:
As advertised on the company’s Web site, a Falcon 9 launch costs an average of $57 million, which works out to less than $2,500 per pound to orbit. That’s significantly less than what other U.S. launch companies typically charge, and even the manufacturer of China’s low-cost Long March rocket (which the U.S. has banned importing) says it cannot beat SpaceX’s pricing.
If SpaceX can perfect its reusable rockets, those costs drop lower. So, Zuckerberg could decide to go with a different private space company out of anger and pride, but I don’t think petty looks good on a guy who unilaterally controls the largest social network on the planet.