Chinese rocket crashes after accidental launch during ground test

A Chinese rocket crashed after being accidentally launched during a ground test Sunday, its company Space Pioneer said in a statement.

The crash happened when the first stage of the Tianlong-3 rocket detached from its launch pad during a test, due to structural failure. It landed in a hilly area of the city of Gongyi in central China.

“Due to the structural failure of the connection between the rocket body and the test platform, the first-stage rocket was separated from the launch pad,” Space Pioneer, also known as Beijing Tianbing Technology, said.

“After liftoff, the onboard computer was automatically shut down, and the rocket fell into the deep mountains 1.5 kilometers [0.9 miles] southwest of the test platform. The rocket body fell into the mountain and disintegrated.”

There were no injuries as a result of the crash, the company said, as people in the area were evacuated in advance of the rocket test.

Space Pioneer, a leading company in the commercial rocket sphere, specializes in liquid-propellant rockets.

In April 2023, it successfully launched its Tianlong-2 rocket, making the company China’s first commercial launch operator to send a liquid carrier rocket into space and successfully enter orbit, according to state media.

Tianlong-3, the rocket that crashed on Sunday, is a large liquid carrier rocket. It was made to help construct China’s satellite internet network.

The rocket’s product performance is comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, according to Space Pioneer, adding that it will be capable of launching the rocket over 30 times per year after the rocket’s first successful flight.

The accident comes just days after China’s Chang’e-6 lunar module returned to Earth from space, where it collected the first ever samples from the far side of the moon.

The mission was a key milestone in China’s “eternal dream” – as articulated by Chinese leader Xi Jinping – to establish the country as a dominant space power and comes as a number of countries, including the United States, also ramp up their own lunar exploration programs.

CNN’s Simone McCarthy contributed to this report.

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