Chinese Private Spaceflight Company Accidentally Launches Reusable Rocket Into The Side Of A Mountain

Gif: <a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Launch Pad/YouTube;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">The Launch Pad/YouTube</a>

If there’s one thing you generally don’t want, it’s rockets losing control. Especially while they are still here on Earth; it’s why count downs are such a big deal. Unfortunately, a rocket in China, just could not be contained. It literally slipped the surly bonds of both Earth and its ground team over the weekend for 30 seconds of glorious, sky-bound freedom, before crashing into the side of a mountain.

The crash happened Sunday at the Comprehensive Test Center in Gongyi City, Henan Province. The reusable Tianlong-3 rocket from the private Chinese company Space Pioneer accidentally launched during a static test, according to the company:


During the test run, the first-stage rocket ignited normally, and the engine thrust reached 820 tons. Due to structural failure at the connection between the rocket body and the test bench, the first-stage rocket separated from the launch pad. After liftoff, the onboard computer automatically shut down, and the rocket fell into a deep mountain 1.5 kilometers southwest of the test bench. The rocket body disintegrated after falling into the mountain. The test site is far away from the urban area of ​​Gongyi. Before the test, we worked with the local government to improve safety measures and organize the evacuation of surrounding personnel in advance. After investigation, no casualties were found.

An expert told the New York Times that the launch appeared to occur accidentally during a static launch. Typically in a static launch, thrusters would be fired but the rocket remains on Earth.

“It’s so common that it’s a surprise that this sort of failure occurred,” Dr. Tucker said, adding that the only other comparable accident he was aware of occurred in 1952 when a U.S. Viking 8 rocket broke free during a static fire test and landed in the desert five miles away.

“Multiple things probably would have had to go wrong for this failure to happen the way it did,” Dr. Tucker said, adding that although China’s national space program was advanced, its commercial space industry is fairly young.

China has had a chill approach to space debris in the past. While most space programs perform launches near coast lines to avoid such disasters, China has a policy of launching inland to avoid western spies. This policy has lead to some less-than-ideal results. This crash comes just a week after toxic debris from a Chinese rocket rained down on a village in southwestern China. In 2021, China allowed a piece of rocket 10 stories tall and weight 23 tons to plummet back to Earth in an “uncontrolled re-entry.”

China recently became the only country to retrieve rock samples from the dark side of the moon, and plans to put a Taikonaut on the moon by 2030. They’re doing something right.

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