Video footage shows Chinese rocket debris falling on a village after launch

Hong Kong

Suspected debris from a Chinese rocket fell to the ground over a village in southwest China on Saturday, leaving bright yellow smoke and sending villagers fleeing. videos on Chinese social media and relayed to CNN by a local witness.

After the long march of the 2C carrier rocket, dramatic footage emerged online exploded at 3 p.m. local time Saturday (3 a.m. Eastern time) from the Xichang satellite launch site in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The rocket was launched into orbit by the Space Variable Objects Monitor, a powerful satellite developed by China and France to study distant bursts of stars known as gamma-ray bursts.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to position the country as a dominant space power by intensifying efforts to compete with other major world powers, including the United States.

Saturday was the start declared “Total success” by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the state-owned contractor that built the Long March 2C rocket.

CNN has reached out to CASC and the State Council Information Office, which handles press inquiries for the Chinese government, including its space agency, for comment.

Video posted on Chinese short video site Guizhou showed a long, cylindrical piece of debris falling over a rural village and crashing next to a mountain, with yellow smoke billowing from one end.

CNN geolocated the video to be shot from Xiangqiao Village in Guizhou Province, near the launch site in Sichuan Province in the southeast. The video was posted on Guisho from an IP address in Guisho.

Other videos circulating on Chinese social media sites analyzed by CNN showed multiple angles of the falling debris. In one of them, villagers, including children, could be seen running as some covered their ears to the crash and looked back at the orange trail in the sky.

Some of the videos were removed on Monday afternoon.

Witnesses on social media reported hearing a loud explosion after the debris hit the ground. An eyewitness told CNN they saw the rocket fall “with their own eyes.” “There was a foul smell and an explosion,” they added.

In a government notice reposted by a local villager shortly after publication, officials said Sinpa Town, near Xiankyo Village, would conduct a “rocket debris recovery mission” from 2:45 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday time.

Residents were asked to leave their homes and other buildings an hour before the launch and disperse to more open areas to watch the sky. They were warned to stay away from the debris to avoid harm from “toxic gas and explosion,” according to the notice.

Residents are “strictly prohibited” from taking photos of the debris or “disseminating related videos online,” the notice said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from local authorities.


A screen grab from the video shows debris from a suspected Chinese rocket over the village of Xianqiao in China’s Guizhou province following launch.

Markus Schiller, a rocket expert and associate senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the debris appeared to be the first stage booster of the Long March 2C rocket, which uses a liquid propellant consisting of nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMythylhydrazine). )

“This mixture always creates these orange smoke trails. It’s very toxic and carcinogenic,” Schiller said. “Every living thing that inhales those things is going to have a hard time in the future,” he added.

He said that since the launch pad is located in China, such incidents happen frequently.

“If you want to launch something into low Earth orbit, you usually launch in an easterly direction to get an extra boost from the Earth’s rotation. But if you go east, there will definitely be some villages in the path of the first-stage boosters.

Most of China’s rockets are launched from the country’s three domestic launch sites — Jichang in the southwest, Jiuguan in the Gobi Desert in the northwest, and Taiyuan in the north. Built during the Cold War, these bases were deliberately located far from the coast for security reasons.

In 2016, a fourth launch pad, Wenchang, opened on the country’s southernmost island of Hainan.

By comparison, NASA and the European Space Agency typically launch their rockets from coastal areas toward the ocean, said Schiller, who is director of ST Analytics in Munich, Germany.

Western space agencies have largely phased out highly toxic liquid propellants for their civilian space programs, which China and Russia still use, he added.

Multi-stage rockets drop debris shortly after explosion, in predictable trajectories prior to launch.

Before each launch, China’s Civil Aviation Authority usually issues a notice to pilots, called a NOTAM, warning them against “temporary danger areas” where rocket debris may fall.

Debris from Chinese rockets has hit villages before. In December 2023, debris from a rocket landed in southern Hunan province, damaging two houses, state media reported. In 2002, there was a boy in northern China injury When fragments of a satellite launch fell on his village in Shaanxi province.

“I expect we’ll see something like this for some time, for years to come,” Schiller.

China has previously faced criticism from the international space community for handling debris from its out-of-control rocket boosters as they re-enter Earth.

In 2021, NASA slams China for failing to “meet responsible standards” after debris from its out-of-control Long March 5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere and plunged into the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *