July 16, 2024

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A video shows debris from a suspected Chinese missile falling over the village after its launch

A video shows debris from a suspected Chinese missile falling over the village after its launch

Hong Kong

Debris suspected from a Chinese missile was seen falling to the ground above a village in southwestern China on Saturday, leaving behind a trail of bright yellow smoke and sending villagers fleeing, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. Videos on Chinese social media and sent to CNN by a local witness.

The dramatic footage appeared online shortly after the launch of the Long March 2C carrier rocket Launched 3 pm. The rocket was launched local time Saturday (3 a.m. ET) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan Province.

The rocket sent into orbit the Variable Space Object Observer, a powerful satellite developed by China and France to study the most distant explosion of stars known as gamma-ray bursts.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has pledged to consolidate his country’s position as a dominant space power, and to step up space missions to compete with other major global powers, including the United States.

The launch was on Saturday Announce A “complete success” was achieved by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), a state-owned contractor that developed the Long March 2C rocket.

CNN has reached out to CASC and the Information Office of the State Council, which handles press inquiries for the Chinese government, including the Chinese space agency, for comment.

A video posted on Kuaishu, a Chinese short video site, shows a long, cylindrical piece of debris falling over a rural village and crashing next to a hill, with yellow smoke billowing from one end.

CNN identified the geographical location of the video to be filmed from the village of Xianqiao in Guizhou Province, adjacent to the launch site in Sichuan Province to the southeast. The video was posted on Kuaishou from an IP address in Guizhou.

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Other videos circulated on Chinese social media platforms and analyzed by CNN showed multiple angles of falling debris. In one, villagers, including children, were seen running away looking at the orange track in the sky, while some covered their ears in anticipation of the collision.

Some of the videos were removed Monday afternoon.

Eyewitnesses said on social media that they heard a strong explosion after the debris fell to the ground. An eyewitness told CNN that they saw the missile fall “with their own eyes.” They added: “There was a strong smell and the sound of an explosion.”

In a now-deleted government notice, reposted by a local villager shortly after the launch, authorities said Xinba Township, near Qianqiao Village, was to carry out a “missile debris recovery mission” from 2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. local time. The time is Saturday.

Residents were asked to leave their homes and other buildings an hour before the launch and disperse into more open areas to observe the sky. They were warned to stay away from the wreckage to prevent damage from “toxic gas and explosion,” according to the notice.

Residents are “strictly prohibited” from taking photos of the wreckage or “posting related videos on the Internet,” the notice said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from local authorities.


Screenshot taken from a video showing debris from a suspected Chinese missile falling over Qianqiao Village, Guizhou Province, China, after launch.

Markus Schiller, a missile expert and senior research associate at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the debris appears to be the first stage booster of the Long March 2C rocket, which uses liquid fuel consisting of nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH). ).

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“This mixture always creates orange smoke trails. It is highly toxic and carcinogenic,” Schiller said. “Every living being that inhales this stuff is going to have a hard time in the near future.”

He added that such incidents occur frequently in China because of its launch location.

“If you want to launch something into low Earth orbit, you usually launch it in the east direction to get an extra boost from the Earth’s rotation. But if you launch to the east, there are always some villages in the path of the first-stage boosters.

Most of China’s rockets are launched from the country’s three inland launch sites – Xichang in the southwest, Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert in the northwest, and Taiyuan in the north. These bases were built during the Cold War, and were deliberately placed far from the coast due to security concerns.

In 2016, a fourth launch site, Wenchang, was opened on Hainan Island, the country’s southernmost province.

By comparison, NASA and the European Space Agency typically launch their rockets from coastal locations toward the ocean, said Schiller, who is also director of ST Analytics in Munich, Germany.

He added that Western space agencies have largely phased out this type of highly toxic liquid propellant for their civilian space programs, which China and Russia still use.

Multi-stage rockets shed debris shortly after launch, along trajectories that can be predicted before launch.

Before each launch, China’s Civil Aviation Authority typically issues a notice to pilots, known as NOTAM, warning them of “temporary danger zones” where missile debris is likely to fall.

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Debris from Chinese missiles has hit villages before. In December 2023, missile fragments fell in southern Hunan province, damaging two homes, state media reported. In 2002, there was a boy in northern China injured When fragments from a satellite launch fell on his village in Shaanxi Province.

“I expect we will see something like this for a long time, many years to come,” Schiller said.

China has previously faced criticism from the international space community over its handling of debris from rocket boosters that spiraled out of control upon returning to Earth.

In 2021, NASA criticized China For failing to “meet responsible standards” after debris from its out-of-control Long March 5B rocket fell into the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives after re-entering the atmosphere.