SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida September 1, 2016.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida September 1, 2016.

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded Thursday on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida during a test, destroying it and its payload, but there were no injuries, the private space firm said.

A dense plume of black smoke filled the air following the blast. The US space agency NASA said the incident took place shortly after 9:00 am local time.

“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,” the company said.

“Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”

Brevard County Emergency Management said there was no threat to the public from the incident.

People in buildings several miles from the facility wrote on social media that they felt the blast, and posted images showing flames and a plume of thick black smoke coming from the site.

Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of slashing launch costs to make travel to Mars affordable. The California-based company plans to fly its first unmanned spacecraft to Mars in 2018 and send humans to Mars as early as 2024.

The company had successfully launched a Falcon 9 last month, sending a Japanese communications satellite into orbit and then landing the rocket on a floating drone ship.