China’s attempt to launch a satellite into orbit ended in a trail of smoke and falling debris Thursday morning.
At just before 7am local time, an uncrewed Long March 4C rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Minutes later, onlookers saw the craft’s smoke trails begin to twist across the sky — and what appeared to be bits of the Chinese rocket began to fall toward the Earth.
Fifteen hours later, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua confirmed the mission’s failure — meaning China has now lost two rockets in as many months.
According to Xinhua, the problem had to do with the Chinese rocket’s third stage, the part responsible for the final push of a payload into orbit.
“The first and second stages of the rocket worked normally, while the third stage had abnormal operation,” Xinhua reported, according to Space News. “Based on monitoring data, the third stage of the rocket and satellite debris have fallen on the ground.”
This marks the first failed rocket launch for the Chinese government since July 2017. However, a rocket launched by Chinese aerospace startup OneSpace failed in March 2019, dealing a major blow to the nation’s fledgling private space industry.
READ MORE: China suffers Long March 4 failure [Space News]
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