Thursday, September 1, 2016

Not a great day for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of Tesla/Solarcity/SpaceX

A Falcon 9 booster rocket exploded on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as tropical storm Hermine bore down on the area. An Israeli satellite that was to provide Facebook broadband to Africa was lost in the explosion, SpaceX confirmed.

SpaceX's Launch Prep Went Up In Smoke

SpaceX was preparing a rocket for Saturday's launch, but it exploded and created a lot of smoke.

By Melissa Prax | September 1, 2016
This massive amount of smoke is coming from NASA's Kennedy Space Center launch pad.

That's the launch pad where an unmanned SpaceX rocket was set to take off. The company claims the explosion was caused by an "anomaly." It was reportedly felt miles away.

SEE MORE: SpaceX's Dream Of Reusable Rockets Is Becoming A Reality

A statement from SpaceX said there weren't any injuries and the pad was clear at the time of the blasts.

"Really a devastating explosion. There's extensive damage to the launch pad and of course the rocket itself," CBS senior space consultant Bill Harwood said.

The local emergency management office tweeted there wasn't a threat to the public.

The explosion happened during a static test fire. That's when the rocket doesn't move when the engine is turned on. The test was in preparation for a launch Saturday.

SpaceX explosion live updates: Falcon 9 rocket's success rate is 93%, near industry average

SEPT. 1, 2016, 3:03 P.M.
What we know:

Elon Musk's SpaceX was fueling its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred Thursday morning.
The company was preparing for a test firing, considered routine, in advance of a planned Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The explosion destroyed the rocket and its payload: an Israeli satellite meant to be used in Facebook's effort to provide Internet service to poorly connected areas.

1:55 P.M.
Rex Crum
Facebook's Internet plan will probably be slowed by SpaceX explosion(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

What effect will the SpaceX explosion have on on Facebook's initiative, which is supposed to bring low-cost Internet access to poorly connected areas?

It’ll probably slow those plans at least a little, since the Amos 6 satellite that SpaceX’s rocket was supposed to carry into orbit was meant to play a role in the project. Facebook and French satellite provider Eutelsat were paying a reported $95 million a year to lease bandwidth on the satellite for five years.

Tim Bajarin, tech-industry analyst with Creative Strategies, said Zuckerberg and Facebook can be expected to work on getting another satellite up as soon as possible.

The explosion “won't have any impact on his goal at all,” Bajarin said. “This is an important part of his vision for providing Internet access around the globe, and while this may set back the timing, it will not derail his plans or vision.”

Facebook is not relying only on satellites to accomplish its goal. It’s also been experimenting with other technology such as Aquila, an unmanned, solar-powered plane that will be used to beam the Internet into remote areas. Facebook completed its first successful Aquila flight in June.

Crum writes for the  East Bay Times/McClatchy.

SpaceX Rocket Explosion Comes At Worst Possible Time For Musk

Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA said SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when a blast occurred. (AP Photo/Marcia Dunn)
Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Thursday at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA said SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when a blast occurred. (AP Photo/Marcia Dunn)


5:05 PM ET

The explosion of a SpaceX rocket in Florida Thursday morning comes during hard times for company founder Elon Musk, who is struggling to juggle his plan to merge Tesla Motors (TSLA) and Solar City (SCTY) and maintain his ambitious goals as he faces a cash crunch.

SpaceX confirmed the loss of its Falcon 9 rocket and its $200 million payload in the explosion at a Cape Canaveral, Fla., launchpad shortly after 9 a.m. ET. No injuries were reported.

SpaceX was conducting a routine test firing of its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred, which shook buildings several miles away. The Falcon 9 rocket was preparing for a Saturday launch, with plans to put an Israeli satellite into orbit. In June 2015, a SpaceX rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station blew up shortly after launch.

The explosion follows an SEC filing by Tesla late Wednesday that revealed a financial crunch as it strives to acquire SolarCity. The filing disclosed that Tesla has to pay $422 million to its bondholders in the third quarter, and that it will raise additional money by year's end. The money is needed, in part, to support the SolarCity merger.

Besides to being the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk is also the largest shareholder of both Tesla and SolarCity, and he chairs the board at the solar firm, which is led by his cousins, brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive. Tesla's bid to acquire Solar City was widely criticized by analysts, who said the deal would signal a fundamental change to Tesla's business model that could thwart its aggressive efforts to expand production of its all-electric vehicles.

The SpaceX setback, which is certain to undergo a thorough investigation, comes as Musk is also having to deal with a government investigation following a fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Florida, in which the driver was using the company's Autopilot feature.

Tesla stock fell 5.2% to close at 200.77 on the stock market today,  surrendering all of Wednesday's rebound and falling to its lowest price since June 28. SolarCity stock tumbled 9.1% to 18.78, at its lowest point since May 13.

IBD'S Take: Tesla's Relative Strength line, which graphs a stock's performance vs. the S&P 500, has been sloping lower for six weeks. Leading stocks typically show an RS line that is rising, meaning that they are outperforming the S&P 500, even when both the stock and the index are down for the day or week. If a stock falls less on a percentage basis than the large-cap gauge, its RS line will rise. So in Tesla's case, the right time to buy the stock is when it forms a high-quality base, breaks out in big volume, and its RS line shows improved action.

The troubles at Tesla comes as Musk unveiled an ambitious long-term plan in mid-July. The plan included additional products stemming from its pending acquisition SolarCity, expanding the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments and expanding its self-driving vehicle technology.

More video here:

Nigeria's Startup Scene Is Drawing Big Names — Like Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Nigeria for the first time to see what its tech culture and startups were all about.

By Melissa Prax | September 1, 2016

Nigeria is in a recession, but the country's startups and tech scene could push its economy forward.

Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg seems to think so. He recently visited the sub-Saharan country for the first time.

"I wanted to come to Lagos first because of the vibrant developer and entrepreneurial ecosystem that you guys have here," Zuckerberg said.

Lagos is Nigeria's largest city, and some have dubbed it "Africa's Silicon Valley." That's because the city boasts several up-and-coming startups along with financial potential for international companies.

Yet, there are some road blocks for the tech scene in Nigeria, like funding and internet access.

That last issue is something Zuckerberg is trying to change.

"Some places, there isn't a good cellphone signal, so we're launching satellites into space to beam down internet, and we're building solar-powered planes that can fly over rural areas," Zuckerberg said.

As for funding, earlier this year The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative put millions of dollars into training more engineers in Nigeria.

Of course, Zuckerberg's pushes aren't completely without gain. Facebook's largest market in Africa is Nigeria.
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