July 24, 2024

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Chinese rocket Tianlong-3 exploded during test

Chinese rocket Tianlong-3 exploded during test

Video: Watson/Lucas Zolinger

On Sunday, June 30, a catastrophic accident occurred during the test of the new Tianlong-3 rocket from the private Chinese space company “Space Pioneer”. Nothing went as planned during this launch — because the rocket wasn’t actually supposed to take off in the first place.

It was supposed to be just a test called a “static fire test”, a test where the engine is tested while the rocket is on the ground. However, she took it. You can watch and find out what happened next – and why – in the video:

Video: Watson/Lucas Zolinger

In a statement, Space Pioneer explained that there was a structural failure in the connection between the rocket body and the test station. That’s why the rocket took off unscheduled after nine engines were ignited. After several hundred meters of ascent, the rocket’s internal computer shut down its engines. It crashed about 1.5 kilometers to the southwest about 50 seconds after takeoff. According to Henan provincial authorities, there were no injuries in the incident.

A rare accident

While problems with rocket development are not uncommon, accidents of this magnitude are rare, several experts write online. It is highly unusual that the brackets failed during such a “static fire test”, He writes for Space News. Most recently, the rocket of the American company “SpaceX” exploded during such a test in 2020 – but remained on the ground.

It is scheduled to launch later this year

“Space Pioneer” actually already had a schedule for the new Tianlong 3 rocket. The orbital launch attempt was to take place later this year at a new commercial launch facility near the Wenchang Cosmodrome on Hainan Island. This project may now be delayed for a long time.

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It is not known how the incident will affect Space Pioneer in terms of delays, fines and continued operations. Space Pioneer says it will conduct an analysis and resume testing with new hardware soon.

A Tianlong-3 rocket.Image: Space Pioneer

Successes with the previous model

The space pioneer had already achieved success with an earlier model of the Tianlong-3 rocket. In 2023, it will be the first private Chinese company to reach Earth orbit by rocket. The new rocket, Tianlong-3, is significantly larger than its predecessor, Tianlong-2, with a diameter of 3.8 meters and a missile mass of 590 tonnes.

It is said to be capable of carrying a payload of 17 tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO) or 14 tonnes to a 500 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. (lzo)

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