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Video of Falcon 9 launchpad explosion

The video below shows the explosion, at about the 1:10 minute mark. If you watch closely you can see the rocket’s nose and payload fall to the ground and explode following the initial explosion of the upper stage.

Hat tip Steve Golson

Conscious Choice cover

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  • C Cecil

    Very bad news. Thousands of craftsman man-hours to build this amazing launch vehicle and its payload laid to waste.

  • ken anthony

    Not all bad. This gives them information they would have had a difficulty in testing. It may even save lives down the road.

  • Orion314

    B4ITSNEWS viewer had a different angle of this, suspect that a drone strike was to blame.
    There does appear to be some small object in motion b4 the explosion.

  • Guy Cihi

    If you watch repeatedly, you will see a fast-moving projectile strikes AMOS 6 at the exact spot of first combustion.

    Spacecom has earned at least $316 million from insurers for the AMOS 5 (lost in space) and the AMOS 6 (destroyed by anomoly.)

    Details regarding the insurer and who actually lost money on these two ‘anomalies’ are difficult to find.

  • Alex

    Orion314 and Guy Cihi: I viewed it in detail, it is just the opposite as you both proposed. The projectile/fragment was produced by the explosion itself and flew away from point at which the rocket’s explosion started.

  • Localfluff

    I wonder if they might’ve misjudged the cause of the last failure of the upper stage, that the real problem remains and caused this explosion too. It’s funny that it is the relatively simple and non-reusable upper stage that’s the problem.

  • Alex

    Localfluff: That is not a “simple” uper-stage. It is extremely quezzed out and light weight. I guess only 3-4% stuctural mass fraction. Maybe they built not enough reserves.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Rocket stages with insufficient structural strength usually fail under load during ascent. Sitting statically on the ground isn’t typically a problem. CRS-7 didn’t fail as the result of any defect or design shortcoming in the main structure of the Falcon 2nd stage and that seems to be true in this case as well. In both cases, something inside the 2nd stage went wrong and triggered a rupture. In the case of CRS-7 the problem was a seriously out-of-spec part acquired from a subcontractor. We don’t yet know what caused this latest loss, but SpaceX will figure it out.

    As for small objects in video footage that appear to be flying toward the rocket, it’s far likelier these are insects fairly close to the camera than that they are drones sent by Al Qaeda, SPECTRE, ISIS, North Korea, the Bavarian Illuminati, the perfidious Dutch or whatever group is one’s favorite conspiracy theory nexus of evil. The Canaveral/Kennedy area is pretty much a reclaimed marsh and is cheek-by-jowl with unreclaimed swamps and marshes. South Florida is a very buggy place. Some of the bugs there are damned near big enough to require tail numbers.

  • wayne

    I’m just a civilian– the resolution on that video isn’t high enough to accurately pick out small objects right next to the rocker.
    And given the time-delay between the initial flash & the sound, it was some distance from the launch pad.
    What I see– the flame front immediately propagated down from the top of the 2nd stage.

    We’ll just have to wait until they finish the post mortem.

  • BSJ

    I estimate the camera is about 2.5 miles from the launch site. (Flash to bang)

  • Alex

    Dick Eagleson: Structural failure may also happen at ground, for example if pressure vessel are overpressurized (for example S-IV-B stage, which was in 1968 completely destroyed by disrupture a single Helium pressure vessel) or the differential load on common bulkhead is just opposite to the correct one. However, it this case it seems that already conditions for following detonation had existed without significant structural failure occured.

  • Charles Agio

    You know all that burning fuel used to launch a rocket into space couldn’t bring down the steel apparatus on the right used to hold up the rocket, but a jet airplane with far less fuel could cause a building much bigger than that structure to collapse in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Just weird. Heck there were even loud explosions at cape canaveral following the fire and the structure still stood. Weird. That’s all just weird

  • Alex

    In addition to my last comments some data:

    S-IVB-203 AS-203 July 5, 1966 Exploded in orbit during bulkhead test at end of mission; debris decayed

    S-IVB-503 Destroyed during testing, January 20, 1967

    A Saturn V third stage, S-IVB-503, exploded shortly before it was scheduled to be ignited in a January 20 test at SACTO. The explosion completely destroyed the stage at test stand Beta III. Post-accident investigation revealed that one of the eight ambient temperature helium storage spheres located on the engine thrust structure exploded because of weld weakness resulting from use of the wrong weld material.346

  • wayne

    BSJ– thanks.
    (tangentially– saw the exact same clip on network TV news– they re-edited it so the flash & explosion occurred at the same time.)

    Charles Agio:
    I have to counter that thought– it wasn’t exclusively the explosion of jet-fuel that brought down the towers, it was structural impact-damage & fire.

  • wayne

    that should have been, “…so the explosion and sound, occurred at the same time.”

  • Kirk

    Wayne, here is a clip with the audio synched.

  • wayne

    Kirk– whoops– my snarky comment was sorta against the news-media re-editing reality. (but I do appreciate your effort.)
    The Media love to condense everything into short snippets. I’m a “long-format” guy myself.
    [tangentially– a particular gripe I have– when “they” add sound-effects to B&W film footage of WW-2 or when “they” colorize film & don’t clearly identify it as such.

    -saw Apollo-8 launch as a kid & we were about 3 miles away. Definite time-lag between the sight & the sound. (Then in Boy Scouts, I learned how to judge how close lightning was by counting between the flash & the sound, although I forgot the multiplier… but BSJ saved me on that one.)

  • Cotour

    Reading all of these comments no one even mentioned that no one was killed or injured, I find those facts amazing. It must be an interesting experience to be close to the launch pad and something like that goes wrong.

    Q: How close is anyone to the rocket during this operation?

  • eddie willers

    Why was the Facebook satellite installed for a test?

  • eddie willers asked, “Why was the Facebook satellite installed for a test?”

    As I wrote in a previous comment, this dress rehearsal countdown to a static fire test of the first stage is standard practice for SpaceX. They test the stages in Texas before shipment to the launch site. Then at the launch site they assemble the rocket with payload and do a full dress rehearsal just prior to every launch. This is not news. They have been doing it this way for almost seven years.

    Moreover, the failure was not because of the static fire test. They never got that far. Something went wrong with the upper stage, which though fueled for this test is never fired.

    Finally, people should not misunderstand the use of the word “test” for these circumstances. This was not an engineering test of prototype previously untested equipment. They were prepping their operational rocket for a standard launch. The two types of tests are very different. In the former, a commercial payload would not have been on board. In the latter, one would expect a payload to be there.

    Something went wrong, and they have to fix it. However, they did not make a mistake putting the payload on the rocket.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z– good point about “test” vs. “preparation to launch,” which includes fueling & an engine test. I think I heard you mention on JBS it’s equivalent of a ‘launch to abort’– something like that.

    Cotour– good point about “no injuries,” SpaceX did include that in their announcements.

    I’m hoping some of our actual Rocket-Scientists could enlighten us (me!) on general range-safety procedures for a launch.
    (When I saw Apollo 8 launch, we were in a public area a good 3+ miles away and not on NASA property. Press was “inside the fence” but in a specific area far removed from the pad as well.

    Do we know what percentage of the fuel was already loaded?
    Do we know in what order they load the RP-1 and LOX?
    The Face Book satellite clearly exploded when it hit the ground–do we know how much fuel was on the satellite itself?
    (This is a tragic accident, but I’m not crying over Zuckerberg losing his Satellite.)

    Just thinking out loud. When they have the accident-report done, then we’ll know what happened.

  • Frank

    It looks like the strongback still had its clamp on the upper stage just below the fairing. You can see the first and second stage disintegrate under the payload followed by the payload and fairing fall off the strongback clamp and fall to the ground. This discounts the theory that the payload started the fire. Looks like the flame started near the upper vent that had just opened up.

  • wayne

    Frank– good eyes.

    We’ll have to wait for actual technical-camera views, the resolution of that video just isn’t high enough to get a whole lot of detail
    Just ran across this video–same as the one above but slowed way down.

    SpaceX Static Fire Anomaly 1/250x speed

  • Alex

    Mr. Zimmerman: You are not correct and should not play with words. That is annoying. This is clearly a test, otherwise this procedure has no meaning. Without positive results of this test no launch will follow and corrective measures have to applied.

  • Alex: We I guess will have to agree to disagree. I am not trying to minimize the problem that SpaceX is facing in finding out what happened and fixing it, but there is a difference between an engineering test and a standard test performed routinely in preparation for flight. For example, all the vertical landings of the Falcon 9 first stage have been engineering tests. They have made it clear each time that they are not expecting success but are performing the attempt to learn something about the engineering so that they improve their design for future flights.

    They do expect success during a launch of a commercial payload or a Dragon capsule. They also expect all the preparations that precede that launch to succeed as well.

    In fact, this distinction, the expectation of success, might best explain the difference. It is just an unfortunate thing that we do not have two different words in English, a language that normally had many words for the same thing, for these different kinds of tests.

    Moreover, based on this distinction the failure during a routine test, as happened to SpaceX on Thursday, is actually worse than a failure during an engineering test. On Thursday there was an expectation of success, and the failure hurts the company badly.

  • Edward

    I doubt greatly that SpaceX runs these on-pad tests to verify hardware, but I suspect that they are verifying modifications to procedures. SpaceX is doing a lot of work to find faster and less expensive ways of performing their launches. This means that they are changing their procedures — possibly and probably with each launch.

    It is yet to be seen whether the procedures resulted in a spark in a place it should not be or the hardware had a fault. I try not to speculate but let the investigators look at everything. Since investigations start very broadly, many times they uncover areas that have the potential for future problems, allowing for those areas to be made less problematic.

    Someone asked, in another thread, about the amount of hydrazine on a satellite. My own rule of thumb is that half the launch weight of a GEO satellite is propellant. It is not accurate for any given satellite, but it is ball park. Amos-6 weighed 12,000 lbs, so it likely had two or three tons of propellant (hydrazine — and oxidizer, if it is not a monopropellant satellite). I did not find anything saying that it was an all-electric satellite, in which case it would not have had any hydrazine and likely would have weighed less.

  • Alex

    Edward: You can see Amos-6 hypergolic propellant load (3-tons) combust (“explosion”) as the Falcon 9’s payload section, which was supported for a few seconds by the strongback’s clamps, hit the ground.

  • Alex

    Falcon 9 explosion: Somebody tried a more in depth analyis based on available video. For example, it was found that the detonation/explosion can be traced back to to the second stage propellant interface.

  • Edward

    What he has used is an assumption that the brightest part of the explosion, where his cross-hairs crossed, is the source of the explosion. This is a reasonable assumption, as fire investigations use a similar assumption that the source of a fire is most likely where the greatest burn damage too place, but it is not a definitive conclusion about where the explosion started. All it really shows is that from the direction that the camera is located, there is a brightness that flared the camera that corresponds in the two dimensional picture near that interface.

    More data needs to be examined in order to verify this as the origin of the explosion.

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