Part of Space Pioneer rocket crashes in central China

Beijing Tianbing, also known as Space Pioneer said that there were no casualties reported

REUTERS June 30, 2024
A file image of a liquid rocket by Chinese private company Space Pioneer. PHOTO:XINHUA


Beijing Tianbing Technology Co said on Sunday that the first stage of its Tianlong-3 rocket under development had detached from its launch pad during a test due to structural failure and landed in a hilly area of the city of Gongyi in central China.

There were no reports of casualties after an initial investigation, Beijing Tianbing, also known as Space Pioneer, said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

Parts of the rocket stage were scattered within a "safe area" but caused a local fire, according to a separate statement by the Gongyi emergency management bureau.

The fire has since been extinguished and no one has been hurt, the bureau said.

Read: NASA hit with $80,000 claim after space debris crashes into family home

The two-stage Tianlong-3 ("Sky Dragon 3") is a partly reusable rocket under development by Space Pioneer, one of a small group of rapidly growing private-sector rocket makers over the past five years.

Falling rocket debris in China after launches is not unheard of, but it is very rare for part of a rocket under development to make an unplanned flight out of its test site and crash.

According to Space Pioneer, the first stage of the Tianlong-3 ignited normally during a hot test but later detached from the test bench due to structural failure and landed in hilly areas 1.5 kms (0.9 miles) away.

The performance of Tianlong-3 is comparable to SpaceX's Falcon 9, according to Space Pioneer.

Also read: Huge piece of space junk from Chinese rocket falls over Atlantic Ocean

In April 2023, Space Pioneer launched a kerosene-oxygen rocket, the Tianlong-2, becoming the first private Chinese firm to send a liquid-propellant rocket into space.

Chinese commercial space companies have rushed into the sector since 2014 when private investment in the industry was allowed by the state.

Many started making satellites while others including Space Pioneer, focused on developing reusable rockets that can significantly cut mission costs.

The test sites of such companies can be found along China's coastal areas, located by the sea due to safety reasons.

But some are also sited deep in the country's interior such as Space Pioneer's test centre in Gongyi, a city of 800,000 people in the central province of Henan.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ