WATCH: China accidentally launches SpaceX rival, explodes into mountainside

By Andrew Powell


(Video screenshot)

Chinese space startup Space Pioneer accidentally launched a rocket on Sunday during what was supposed to be just a ground test.

Dramatic footage of the launch shows the rocket taking off, then crashing into the surrounding mountains in a massive explosion outside of the Chinese city of Gongyi.

Space Pioneer, also known as the Beijing Tianbing Technology Co., was conducting a static-fire test as part of the first stage of its Tianlong-3 launch, before the rocket took off on its ill-fated journey, crashing approximately 1.5 kilometers from the launch site, according to a statement released by the company.

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“During the test run, a sub-stage rocket ignited normally, the engine thrust reached 820 tons, due to the failure of the structure of the connection between the rocket body and the test bench, a sub-stage rocket detached from the launch pad, after liftoff, the rocket computer actively shut down, the rocket fell into the deep mountains 1.5 kilometers southwest of the test bench, and the rocket body fell into the mountains and disintegrated. The test site is far away from Gongyi City, and before the test, we jointly improved safety and security measures with the local government and organized the evacuation of surrounding personnel in advance,” the statement said.

It goes on to say the Tianlong-3 is comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

“Tianlong-3 is a large-scale liquid launch vehicle tailored by Tianbing Technology for the construction of China’s satellite Internet constellation, and its product performance is comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, with a diameter of 3.8 meters, a take-off mass of 590 tons, a low earth orbit (LEO) capacity of 17 tons, and a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) capacity of 14 tons,” the statement said.

The company, which designed the Tianlong-3 to be a reusable two-stage rocket, became the first Chinese firm to send a liquid-propellant rocket into space after successfully launching the Tianlong-2 in 2023.

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