Thursday, May 10, 2018

Long March 3B Rocket Booster Crashes to Earth Near a Town in China

Long March 3B launches with APStar-6C communications satellite on May 3. Photo Credit: Zhang Zhengyi/Xinhua

One of Long March 3B rocket’s four liquid boosters has crashed to Earth near houses in Heba Town in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

The wreckage is part of the “E” variant of Long March 3B launch vehicle, which features elongated boosters – each fitted with an YF-25 engine – almost three feet taller than those in standard version. The booster that hit the ground originates from a Long March 3B/E rocket launched last week, on May 3, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in Sichuan Province, southwest China, to orbit the APStar-6C communications satellite.

The boosters that powered last week’s mission for the initial phase of the flight were most likely detached from the launch vehicle some two minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff. They left the rocket being accelerated by its first stage alone, which utilizes a cluster of four YF-21C engines.

Some local residents may have recorded the wreckage one day after the liftoff as reports that there is a footage showing the burned out booster on the ground.

Rocket parts falling near populated areas are common in China as the country has three out of its four launch sites situated at least hundreds of miles away from the coast. Therefore, residents in possible drop zones of rocket stages have to be evacuated at every launch. Only this year, two other similar crash landings of rocket parts near inhabited regions were reported.

Generally, China performs around 20 orbital launches annually and this year could be record-breaking as about 35 mission are in the launch manifest. Beijing has recently revealed its plan to develop launch vehicles with re-usable stages and booster, what could greatly decrease the risk posed by expendable rocket parts to populated areas in mainland China.

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