Space Pioneer Was Once Called 'China's SpaceX.' It Just Mistakenly Launched a Rocket Near a Big City

  • An accidental launch moved up the debut flight of China’s Tianlong 3 rocket.

  • The static fire test failed after the launch pad collapsed.

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What happens if the static fire test of a rocket goes wrong and the rocket ends up taking off by accident? Well, that it’s no longer a static fire test.

China’s own Falcon 9. The Tianlong 3 medium-lift launch vehicle, developed by the Chinese company Space Pioneer, resembles SpaceX’s Falcon 9 both in terms of its dimensions (233 x 12 feet) and payload capacity (17 tons to low Earth orbit).

Its first stage boasts nine liquid oxygen and kerosene engines, each producing a thrust of 1,090 kN. Additionally, it’s designed to land vertically on its own and can be re-flown up to 10 times.

An accidental launch. Although officials planned for Tianlong 3’s inaugural flight to take place over the next few weeks, a dramatic incident has moved up its debut.

During a static fire test on June 30, the rocket accidentally lifted off and then crashed horizontally just 0.9 miles from the launch pad, resulting in a significant explosion.

What happened exactly? Tianglong 3’s nine TH-12 engines ignited, causing the platform to break apart due to the 820-ton thrust, resulting in the rocket’s first accidental liftoff. The launch pad was designed to withstand 600 tons, according to some sources.

The accident occurred at Space Pioneer’s facility in Gongyi, a city of 850,000 inhabitants in Henan province, south of Beijing. It’s not a launch site. In fact, Space Pioneer plans to launch Tianlong 3 from the Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

The booster took off by accident when it detached itself from the hooks. It then lifted off vertically with apparent control and ascended hundreds of feet, but it fell and exploded violently a few seconds later near some buildings on the outskirts of the city.

In the eye of the storm. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but videos of the accident show how close the rocket was to populated areas. It’ll presumably be several months before the company gets back on track with a new stage and test platform.

Space Pioneer became a key player in China’s private space sector by launching the country’s first commercial liquid-fueled rocket, the Tianlong 2. Now, it’s under scrutiny from the authorities and much of the general public.

And understandably so. State-owned CZ-2 rockets land in free fall by design after putting their satellites into orbit. This serves as one more sign of China’s more relaxed regulation of aerospace safety.

Image | 忠于·生活 | Weibo

Related | It’s Not a Mistake: China Continues to Endanger People by Allowing Rockets to Fall From the Sky After Completing Their Missions

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