China launched a rocket over the weekend, and part of it fell on a settlement
The SpaceX Starship was undergoing pressure testing in Boca Chica, Texas, on Nov. 20. It partially exploded during testing, but no injuries were reported.
China's space agency launched two new navigation satellites into orbit Saturday (Nov. 23), a successful mission that also appeared to send booster segments crashing into a settlement back on Earth.
A Long March 3B rocket launched two Beidou navigation satellites for China's constellation from the Xichang Satellite Launching Center in the country's Sichuan Province at 8:55 a.m. Beijing Time Saturday (1255 GMT or 7:55 p.m. EST on Nov. 22). The rocket was equipped with a Yuanzheng-1 (Exploration-1) upper stage to help deliver the satellites to their final orbit.
While the Long March 3B rocket successfully delivered its satellite payload to orbit, boosters from the three-stage rocket appear to have crashed into a settlement downrange from the Xichang launch site, according to video and pictures shared on China's Wiebo social media service and reposted on Twitter. The images show show buildings on fire and damaged, apparently by debris from the Long March 3B, which can be strewn across the area.
While it may seem surprising, the scene is can be a familiar one for Chinese residents living downrange of the Xichang launch site.
China's first three launch sites were built deep inland, meaning that their boosters drop segments and stages over land, rather than out to sea, said Andrew Jones, a space journalist who specializes in China's space program and shared the Weibo images on Twitter. (Jones is also a contributing writer to Space.com).
"In particular, launches from Xichang, situated in Sichuan province in the southwest, seem to threaten populated areas downrange," Jones told Space.com in an email. "The launch profile of Long March 3B rockets, especially those with a payload of a pair of Beidou navigation satellites, has resulted in near misses and impacts on settlements."
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launches two new Beidou navigation satellites into orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Nov. 23, 2019.
China has been ramping up its space launches in recent years, so impacts near or in towns are occurring more often, he added. The two Beidou satellites launched Saturday are the 50th and 51st of their kind and part of the Beidou-3 system, according to China's state-run Xinhua news service. They serve as a global positioning satellite network for China, which aims to complete the current Beidou constellation by mid-2020, Jones said.Report a Typo
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