Chinese rocket part falls on house shortly after Fiery launch



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China’s Long March 3B rocket, which launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in Sichuan province earlier this month, saw some of its components crash into a house. Long March 3B launched ChinaSat 19 on November 5, for the Chinese government, and the rocket fairing landed on the ground soon after. Footage shared on social media shows one of the fairing halves landed on the roof of a house, with no injuries or fatalities.

Parts of Chinese rockets return to Earth after their last launch

The Long March 3B is one of the largest rockets in China and it is mainly used to launch satellites into higher orbits such as geosynchronous orbits. These orbits see the spacecraft cover a region of the Earth throughout the day and are preferred for communications spacecraft because they make positioning the antenna on the ground much easier.

The rocket uses solid boosters and four engines, and unlike those operated by SpaceX, it is unable to land on Earth. Consequently, first stage and boosters make uncontrolled entries, and a lack of data sharing results in tense time periods after a launch, as observing companies and others are unable to determine where the equipment will land; having to settle for a projected flight path instead.

The latest Long March 3B launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) placed ChinaSat 19 into orbit. The satellite was launched after its predecessor failed post-launch and, according to Chinese media, it will provide communications in the Pacific Ocean and North America.

During the satellite’s journey from Earth to its orbit, it is protected by what is called a shroud. It is a protective cover that protects sensitive equipment from the hostile atmosphere during launch, and it is jettisoned or separated after the rocket has flown at a safe distance.

The Long March 3B’s fairings split into two halves, and one of them landed on a house the day after ChinaSat 19 launched. Its path saw the rocket leave China’s east coast and fly over Taiwan, but due to the XSLC’s distance from the sea, the fairing could not perform a sea landing – which is generally safer. Rocket fairings also often feature miniature motors called reaction control thrusters (RCS). These use highly combustible propellants to generate force, making them suitable for use on items such as fairings, due to space and weight limitations. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and the first and second stages of its Falcon 9 rocket also use them.

The Dragon uses them to orient itself with the International Space Station (ISS), while the Falcon 9 first stage reorients itself for a landing and the second stage uses gas thrusters for orientation and other purposes.

The data also suggests that global landing sites are not random and are in fact chosen by design. An analysis of around 40 launches shows that most fairings landed in Hubei, Henan or Hunan provinces – all of which are close to China’s eastern coast. Some have also landed in the Yellow Sea, while others have established themselves much further inland and as far as Qinghai province. The Chinese government also issues notices ahead of a launch to locals, informing them of potential dangers.

The location of the XSLC also makes it difficult to land the fairings at sea, and launches from the Wenchang Launch Facility – located near the sea – fare much better. The private spaceports being built in China are also closer to the sea. Wenchang held a groundbreaking ceremony for its second launch pad in late October.

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