Chinese Rocket Smashes Into A Mountain During An Unscheduled Launch

( — A Beijing tech company’s rocket test launch failed last Sunday when the first stage unexpectedly detached from its launch pad, causing the rocket to drop from the sky and crash land in a hilly region near the central Chinese city of Gongyi.

Beijing Tianbing Technology, also known as Space Pioneer, said in a statement posted to its WeChat account that it was testing the first stage of its new Tianlong-3 rocket when it detached from the launch pad after ignition due to a structural failure.

There were no reported injuries, Space Pioneer said.

Gongyi’s Emergency Management Bureau said in a separate statement that parts of the rocket were scattered after impact but remained within the “safe area.” The crash landing caused a local fire that had been extinguished, and there were no injuries, officials said.

The Tianlong-3 two-stage rocket, also known as Sky Dragon 3, is a partly reusable rocket similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, according to Space Pioneer, one of a growing group of private-sector rocket manufacturers in China.

Rocket debris falling after launches is not unheard of in China, but it is very rare for rocket stages under development to make an unplanned launch out of the test site and crash land.

Space Pioneer said that while the Sky Dragon 3 ignited as it should during a “hot test,” it later detached from the testing pad due to a structural failure before landing close to a mile away in the hills nearby.

Rockets can consist of multiple stages, with the first stage igniting to propel the rocket upward from the launch pad. Once the fuel in the first stage is exhausted, that stage falls away and the second stage ignites, further propelling the rocket.

While some rockets have a third stage as well, Sky Dragon 3 is a two-stage similar in performance to Falcon 9, according to Space Pioneer.

The Beijing-based company became the first private Chinese tech firm to send a rocket into space using a liquid propellant when it launched its kerosene-oxygen rocket Tianlong-2 in April 2023.

Private Chinese space companies have been developing technology since 2014, when Beijing first permitted private investment in the industry.

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