A booster from a Chinese Long March 3B rocket created a massive explosion outside a town in Guangxiv, southwest China on Friday- and the explosion was all caught on video.
According to the Global Times, the Long March 3B rocket lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province at 07:18 local time on Friday, catapulting two Beidou-3 GNSS navigation satellites to earth’s orbit.
It is no secret that China’s growth in its space program has been accelerating with the development of the Long March rocket family launching satellites into space. An expanding space program comes in addition to the country’s rising economic power and international influence, which has alarmingly challenged Western space programs.
As the three-stage rocket with four-strap-on boosters soared towards the heavens, the four boosters separated from the rocket’s core and fell back to earth. One of the boosters landed near a town, while residents panicked as the impact caused a major explosion.
The village of Xiangdu in Tiandeng Country, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is around 700 kilometers from the launch site and considered a “designated drop zones for debris for the launch,” according to the Global Times.
This is probably why the Chinese need to recover their rockets stages soon….and for reasons other than price:
(video of booster falling in planned drop zone from Chinese social media for today’s Long March 3B launch, taken at Baise, Guangxi, China) pic.twitter.com/SLqaDeoPf7
— Cosmic Penguin (@Cosmic_Penguin) January 12, 2018
While the booster smashed into the town, the launch seems to have succeeded in propelling two satellites into orbit. The video below shows the moment the booster slammed into a hillside releasing a toxic plume of hazardous fumes.
Here’s the end of the close-up video of the booster that fell from the Long March 3B today. There’s bang then everyone runs away. Gets them away from the hydrazine for a while at least… pic.twitter.com/CbYKkDsvsO
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 12, 2018
While there were no reports of human casualties; more video has surfaced of curious residents examining the booster up close.
However, unbeknownst to the observes, the “boosters are filled with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) hypergolic propellant, which is highly toxic,” said the Global Times.
The Global Times calls Friday’s event “all too common,” as China’s space program continues to expand.
The footage comes in stark contrast to United States launches, which send launch vehicles over the ocean, while private company SpaceX has mastered landing its Falcon 9 first stages back at launch sites and on drone ships off the coast.
This means that today’s space launches pass over inhabited areas. Though drop zones for Long March rocket stages are carefully calculated and launch notices and procedures put in places, events like the above are all too common, especially with China’s space activities expanding greatly in recent years.
An unidentified man stands in his living room next to an engine from a Long March rocket in August 2015.
The Long March 3B rocket has about a 93% success rating, unlike Elon Musk, who has a history of fiery failures with his SpaceX program. Just last week, Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket failed to reach earth’s orbit, therefore losing a billion dollar secretive spy satellite for the United States Government.
It’s never good when parts of a rocket coming crashing down to earth, never mind almost smashing into a town. However, the next fireball from the heavens could in the coming months, when a Chinese space station is expected to lose orbit.