Chinese Long March rocket damages homes upon impact back on Earth

Source: Jan-Mallander | Pixabay

China has successfully launched another satellite delivery rocket into orbit. The liftoff, however, caused several damages to homes near the launch site.

A Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:55 p.m. Eastern Friday, with a payload of two Beidou satellites intended to be delivered into medium Earth orbit.

Although this was China’s 28th orbital launch in 2019 alone, an impressive feat in the rising market for small satellite deployment services, the Long March rocket has made unwanted damages to homes near its launch site after making its impact back on Earth.

Video footage was seen circulating on Weibo, China’s equivalent for a social media site, where the apparent destruction of a rural building is shown. Flames are seen within the building along with fumes from residual propellant rising from the booster wreckage.

As of the time of writing, no known reports regarding the issue have been published on state media. So far, only videos and images posted on the Communist country’s social media are posted.

Particularly, a post on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service, drew over 600 comments. Many expressed concern for the residents, with discussion as to why such events happen and speculation regarding compensation for the victims. 

Fortunately, the footage and social media comments suggest that prior to the launch, residents near the launch site were evacuated and none were harmed during the unfortunate aftermath of the Long March launch last Friday.

According to a notice, populated areas within calculated drop zones were issued with evacuation orders. Residents were also advised against approaching wreckage due to harmful chemicals. Notably, the first stage and four side boosters of the Long March 3B use a toxic hypergolic propellant combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. 

Additionally, this is not the first occurrence of a Chinese rocket devastating homes and residents with its failed launches. The first Long March 3B launch, carrying Intelsat 708, went out of control moments after launch and hit the ground. The aftermath caused a fire that affected a village.

However, the latest damages caused by the Long March rocket is unlikely to prevent or slow down China’s race to deliver small satellites to orbit. 28 launches, including two failures, is a number behind the Communist country’s record 39 orbital missions in 2018. Furthermore, they are set to match that number as the year comes to a close.

Another, near-identical Long March 3B launch of a new pair of Beidou satellites is expected within the next month.

Friday’s pair were the 50th and 51st Beidou satellites sent into orbit. Beidou is the Chinese answer to the United States’ GPS and has been made a national priority due to economic benefits and military applications.

With regard to the possible damages caused by this launches in the future, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s main space contractor and manufacturer of Long March rockets, has recently been taking measures to constrain the drop zones with tests that will hopefully ensure that these events don’t take place.

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