The Chinese rocket blasted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Monday (September 7), carrying an Earth observation satellite. Shortly after launch, the rocket’s spent first stage booster was caught on camera plummeting to the ground. Harrowing video footage shared online appears to shows the moment the booster crashed near Lilong village, Gaoyao Town in Shaanxi province, northwest China.
The first part of the video appears to show a white, cylindrical-like object falling towards the ground while a man is heard shouting.
The video then cuts to a cloud of orange smoke rising from what is presumed to be the crash site.
According to reports, the rocket is fuelled by a toxic mix of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.
The video then cuts again to where the rocket crashed, showing debris strewn around the booster’s wreckage.
Another cut in the video shows an alternative angle right after the rocket crashed.
This time, the rocket’s plume of orange smoke can be seen from a nearby school as a loud group of children watches on.
The Long March 4B launched yesterday at about 6.57am BST (1.57pm local time), carrying a Gaofen 11 Earth observation satellite.
The launch bolstered China’s growing constellation of high-resolution satellites.
According to official sources, the satellites will help with road planning, crop tracking and urban planning as well as disaster prevention and mitigation.
The Long March 4B rocket, also known as the Chang Zheng 4B and LM-4B, is a three-stage rocket primarily used for satellite launches.
In December 2013 the rocket experienced a spectacular failure while carrying a Chinese-Brazillian rocket to orbit.
Brazil’s Ministry of Science confirmed a “failure in the launch vehicle during flight” that caused the rocket to fall back to Earth before reaching a stable orbit.
On Monday, however, it appears to have been the rocket’s spent first stage that crashed.
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And this is not the first time, a Chinese rocket launch has showered areas around the launch site with debris.
According to videos shared to Weibo, boosters from a three-stage Long March 3B rocket fell on homes near the Xichang Satellite Launching Center in Sichuan Province.
The videos appear to show the rocket’s smouldering debris in a pile of rubble from a house.
The crashes are likely the result of China’s launch complexes being deep inland, as opposed to on the coast where the booster rockets could safely fall into the sea.
Space journalist Andrew Jones said after last year’s incident: “In particular, launches from Xichang, situated in Sichuan province in the southwest, seem to threaten populated areas downrange.”
He added: “The residents within the calculated drop zones for spent stages and boosters are warned and these areas are, apparently, evacuated — the fact that we often see amateur footage of boosters falling from the sky supports the notion that they are warned and expecting to see a falling spent rocket stage.”
China’s Gaofen satellite constellation is being developed for the state-sponsored China High-definition Earth Observation System (CHEOS).
The programme officially kicked off in May 2010.
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