PHOTOS: Massive Explosion Rocks SpaceX Cape Canaveral Launchpad

Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Sept. 1, 2016, at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA said SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when a blast occurred. (Screengrab from video by Dennis Kapatos via YouTube)Smoke rises from a SpaceX launch site Sept. 1, 2016, at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA said SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when a blast occurred. (Screengrab from video by Dennis Kapatos via YouTube)

Social media erupted on Thursday with images and video showing a massive explosion that rocked SpaceX’s launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Hawthorne, California-based company Space Exploration Technologies Corp. headed by Elon Musk was conducting a test-firing of its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred around 9 a.m., the Associated Press reported.

The company, which won its first Pentagon contract in April after years of doing cargo resupply work for NASA, was scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Israeli communications satellite — designed to provide service for Facebook and other companies — on Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The launchpad, known as Launch Complex 40, is actually owned by the Air Force, which leases it to SpaceX, CNN reported. The service’s 45th Space Wing, which services the complex, in a statement on Twitter said the explosion occurred at 9:07 a.m. local time.

The company also confirmed the incident and said it was investigating its cause.

“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload,” it said in a statement. “Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”

Later in the day, Musk tweeted, “Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation. Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon.”

Despite smoke billowing from the scene, Brevard County Emergency Management Office, which oversees the Cape Canaveral site, said on Twitter, “There is NO threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad at CCAFS this morning.”

Check out these images of the incident, including the heat of the explosion captured by radar, as well as a video in which you can hear secondary explosions from the facility.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.