The launch of a Chinese Long March 3B caused panic in the country’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region after the rocket’s boosters landed meters away from an inhabited area. The Long March 3B was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province and deployed two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites into orbit.
The Long March 3B lifted off at 05:03 GMT (13:03 local) with a Yuanzheng-1 upper stage. The launch is the seventh from China in just the first month and a half of 2018. A few hours after the launch, China’s main space contractor confirmed the satellites had been deployed into their designated orbits 21,000 km above the Earth.
The launch had initially been scheduled for Sunday. However, a visit from Xi Jinping, the country’s president to the site saw the launch delayed a day.
Today’s near miss is the second this year. On January 11, another Long March 3B carrying the same payload as this morning’s launch (two BeiDou-3 satellites) dropped its boosters less than a kilometre from an inhabited area. Today’s launch saw the boosters landing even closer to the town leaving many asking why the launch facility is still being utilised.
Some booster wreckage footage, following Long March 3B launch from Xichang today. Not sure if this is from today's Beidou launch. pic.twitter.com/Yc8bXS6ial
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) February 12, 2018
It was initially believed that with the upgrade of the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, Chinese authorities would cease operating out of the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The site is less than ideal for orbital launches mostly due to the location’s higher latitude and the inhabited areas located downrange. However, it seems that authorities are unable to meet the country’s ambitious goal of over 40 launches in 2018 without the use of the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre.