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    A Chinese firm’s answer to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 blew up in a giant fireball after it accidentally launched during a test

    A Long March-4C rocket carrying the satellite Shiyan-23 blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, May 12, 2024. On June 30, Chinese private space firm Tianbing Aerospace Technology said its Tianlong-3 rocket accidentally launched during an engine test.

    Wang Jiangbo/Xinhua via Getty Images

    Chinese space firm Tianbing Aerospace Technology said it accidentally launched a rocket it was testing.The Tianlong-3 is designed as a rival to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, with a similar takeoff mass and reflight.But a stationary engine test on Sunday saw the rocket lift off and crash into a mountain.

    A Chinese space firm said on Sunday that it accidentally launched its Tianlong-3 rocket during a test, causing the vehicle to lift off and crash into a nearby mountainside.

    In a statement, Beijing-based Tianbing Aerospace Technology said it was conducting a first-stage test of the rocket’s power system, and that a “structural failure” caused the Tianlong-3 to separate from its launchpad.

    Had the test been successful, the Tianlong-3 would have remained stationary on the launchpad as its engines fired.

    Multiple people in the nearby city of Gongyi in Henan province captured videos of the accidental launch.

    Footage shows the rocket roaring into the sky and leaving a trail of black smoke before falling and striking the ground in a dramatic fireball explosion.

    The Chinese Tianlong-3 Rocket Accidentally Launched During A Engine Test pic.twitter.com/EK54F4chYF

    — 𝕏 Ali Al Samahi 𝕏 (@alsamahi) June 30, 2024

    “The rocket body disintegrated after falling into the mountain,” Tianbing’s statement said.

    Local authorities wrote that the explosion caused a local fire away from residential areas and that no one was injured.

    Designed to deliver satellites to orbit, it’s a liquid-propellant rocket described by Tianbing as “comparable to Space X’s Falcon 9.”

    The aerospace firm said the Tianlong-3 can take off with a mass of 590 tons, similar to the Falcon 9’s 605 tons. Like the Falcon 9, it’s also designed for reflight, and is estimated to be partially reusable for up to 10 trips.

    Tianbing, one of several Chinese private space rocket companies to gain prominence in recent years, in April 2023 launched another reusable rocket — the Tianlong-2 — fueled by coal-based kerosene.

    With nine engines, the Tianlong-3 is now being touted by Tianbing as a revolutionary rocket for China’s space industry.

    “This is the most potent power system test of any carrier rocket currently under development in the country, and is three times more powerful than any previous test of the largest thrust in China’s aerospace industry,” Tianbing wrote.

    China opened its space industry to private firms in 2014, sparking a wave of investment in aerospace technology, such as reusable rockets, which SpaceX champions as a key step to bolstering humanity’s presence among the stars.

    Chinese people reacting online to Sunday’s accidental launch compared the failure to the initial problems SpaceX suffered when testing and launching its own Falcon rockets.

    “Musk’s Falcon 9 also had a lot of explosions at the beginning. If all nine units of Tianlong 3 are ignited in parallel this time, it can be considered a 70% success,” one blogger wrote on Weibo, China’s version of X.

    The accident on Sunday came just days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping told his country’s science sector to work closer with the state and escalate its race against the West’s tech development scene.

    “We must bolster our sense of urgency. We must go further with our efforts to innovate. To occupy the commanding heights of science and tech competition and future development,” he said on Tuesday.

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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