The maiden launch of China’s new Long March 7A rocket ended in failure late yesterday. The launch appeared to come to an abrupt explosive end following first stage separation.
Launched from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 13:34 UTC on March 16, the Long March 7A initially appeared to climb into the night’s sky without incident. Amateur footage of the launch captured what happened next.
Just after what appeared to be first stage engine shutdown, an explosive event can clearly be seen. Following a brief moment of blackness, another explosive event occurred and as the flames dimmed, the rocket appeared to be falling from the sky.
There has currently been no direct confirmation of the failure from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC). However, Chinese media outlets have begun to confirm the failure adding that an investigation into the incident has already begun.
The Long March 7A is an upgraded variant of the Long March 7 which in turn is a part of China’s extensive family of launch vehicles. As a result, yesterday’s failure may have a knock-on effect depending on what is identified as the root cause of the incident.
The YF-100 RP-1/LOX engine that powers the Long March 7 boosters and first stage, for instance, also powers the Long March 5 boosters. Additionally, the YF-115 RP-1/LOX engine that powers the rocket’s second stage also powers the second stage of the Long March 6.
China hopes to launch no fewer than a combined 5 missions aboard the Long March 5 and 6 rockets. Missions that are expected to launch aboard these vehicles include the first demonstration mission of the country’s next-generation crew capsule and a Mars orbiter and rover, all of which could face delays due to yesterday’s failure.