Spacecraft Debris Falls in Populated Area During Satellite Launch

The incident apparently happened during the launch of a Chinese-French satellite

A video has surfaced on Chinese social media platform Weibo showing what appears to be debris from a spacecraft hitting the ground in a populated area.

The incident is reported to have occurred on Saturday during the launch of a Chinese Long March 2C carrier rocket carrying a Chinese-French satellite payload from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The launch site, exclusively used for sending satellites into orbit, is situated in a valley approximately 85km northwest of Xichang City in China’s Sichuan Province.

The video footage captures what seems to be a rocket booster rapidly descending from the sky while emitting dark orange smoke. Fearful locals can be seen running for safety as the debris crashes into the ground behind several buildings and trees.

According to another Weibo post, parts of the spacecraft reportedly landed in Guiding County in south-central Guizhou Province. Guizhou Province borders Sichuan to the southeast. SpaceNews website reported that an airspace closure notice for the launch had established a temporary danger zone, which included Guiding County.

As of now, there have been no official reports concerning any casualties or property damage resulting from the incident.

On Saturday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that its Long March 2C rocket had “successfully launched” a Chinese-French astronomical satellite into an orbit 600km above Earth.

The satellite, known as the Space-based Multi-band Variable Object Monitor (SVOM), was jointly developed by CNSA and France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) over the past two decades.

SVOM is designed to study Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), which are the most powerful explosive events in space, capable of releasing as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will emit over its entire 10-billion-year lifespan.

“We are eager to witness some significant discoveries, such as the earliest gamma-ray bursts that occurred when the universe was still in its infancy, which will help us investigate cosmic evolution… special and rare gamma-ray bursts, and perhaps even… new types of bursts,” according to Wei Jianyan, who serves as SVOM’s principal Chinese investigator.