SpaceX faces a potentially big payout in the aftermath of last week’s launchpad explosion, after Israeli communications firm Spacecom—which lost one its satellites in the accident—demanded £37 million ($50 million) or a free flight from Elon Musk’s company.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which had been set to deploy an Amos-6 satellite to provide wireless services to sub-Saharan Africa as part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, was destroyed on Thursday as it was prepped for launch. Its payload was worth an estimated £150 million ($200 million), while the rocket itself cost £45 million ($60 million).
Shares in Spacecom, which operates three other satellites, plunged by more than 40 percent in the wake of the explosion. Bosses have also suggested that the firm might pursue £153 million ($205 million) from Israel Aerospace Industries, which manufactured the satellite.
Musk’s SpaceX told Reuters in an e-mail that it would not disclose contract or insurance terms. However, it has more than 70 missions planned for both commercial and government customers, worth an estimated £7.5 billion ($10 billion).
It’s unclear at present whether a merger deal agreed between Spacecom and Chinese firm Xinwei Technology Group would go ahead. The £213 million ($285 million) deal, which was signed last month, had been contingent on the successful launch of the new satellite.
“We hope to continue fruitful communications with the prospective buyer,” Gil Lotan, Spacecom’s general counsel, told reporters. Xinwei, meanwhile, said it was in “close communication” with Spacecom over the future of the merger.