July 22, 2024

The space rocket of a Chinese private company crashed in flames and exploded near a city on Sunday after it was accidentally launched during a test.

The first stage of the Tianlong-3 rocket left its launch pad due to a structural failure at the connection between the rocket and the test stand, the company Beijing Tianbing, also known as Space Pioneer, said. statement on his official WeChat account. The rocket landed in a hilly area of ​​the city of Gongyi in central China, it said.

Video image from the incident published by Chinese digital media outlet The Paper showed the rocket soaring straight up into the air before losing power and spinning horizontally, falling back to Earth and exploding in flames on nearby forested hills.

An initial investigation into the unplanned flight found there were no reports of casualties, it said.

Parts of the rocket stage were scattered in a “safe area” but caused a local fire, according to a separate statement from the Gongyi Emergency Management Bureau.

The fire has since been extinguished and no one was injured, the bureau said.

The two-stage Tianlong-3, “Sky Dragon 3”, is a partially reusable rocket developed by Space Pioneer, one of a small group of private sector rocket manufacturers that has grown rapidly over the past five years.

Drop rocket debris China after launches is not unheard of, but it is very rare for a part of a rocket under development to make an unplanned flight from its test site and crash.

According to Space Pioneer, the first stage of the Tianlong-3 ignited normally during a hot test, but later detached from the test bed due to structural failure.

A rocket can consist of several stages, with the first, or lower, stage igniting the rocket and propelling it upward when launched. When the fuel is exhausted, the first stage falls off, and the second stage ignites, keeping the rocket in propulsion.

Space Pioneer says the performance of Tianlong-3 is comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon 9which is also a two-stage rocket.

In April 2023, Space Pioneer launched a kerosene-oxygen rocket, the Tianlong-2, becoming the first private Chinese firm to send a liquid-propellant rocket into space.

Chinese commercial space companies have rushed into the sector since 2014 when private investment in the industry was allowed by the state.

Many began making satellites while others, including Space Pioneer, focused on developing reusable rockets that could significantly reduce mission costs.

The test sites of such companies can be found along China’s coastal areas, which are located along the sea for security reasons. But some are also located deep in the country’s interior, such as Space Pioneer’s test center in Gongyi, a city of 800,000 people in the central province of Henan.

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