TECH giant Facebook’s plan to extend internet access to rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, suffered a setback when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded at Cape Canaveral in Florida on September 1.
Space X was hoping to launch a Facebook satellite to provide high-speed internet service to parts of Africa on Saturday, September 3.
The rocket and satellite on it were destroyed.
The Falcon 9 belonged to the American company SpaceX. It designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft.
Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch in Wednesday in the Nigerian commercial capital, Lagos.
The satellite will “beam down connectivity,” the CEO said in a presentation. “We built these solar-powered drones that are basically like a cellphone tower in the sky. They can go over really remote rural locations and beam down connectivity to make sure networks spread and reach everyone.”
The US social media company last year agreed to a deal with Paris-based Eutelsat Communications to launch the satellite. The move is intended to enable Facebook to add users in parts of the continent that don’t have internet access, increasing the company’s reach.
While internet-by-satellite is usually a costly option in the developing world, Zuckerberg said he planned to make accessing the network affordable.
“It’s not much good having the infrastructure if people cannot afford to use it,” he said.
In a Facebook post Zuckerberg said Thursday after news of the disaster; “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”, he said, adding that, “We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided”.
Facebook had 84 million users in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of July, compared with 1.7 billion worldwide.