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'Accidental launch' sees rocket crash into hillside and burst into flames during an engine test

'Accidental launch' sees rocket crash into hillside and burst into flames during an engine test

The company behind the incident assured no one was hurt in the crash

The first stage of a rocket being tested by a private company in China ended up blasting into a hillside after it was launched by accident.

The company Beijing Tianbing, which is also known as Space Pioneer, announced the incident in a statement online after the rocket accidentally left its launch pad off on Sunday (30 June).

It described the rocket, a large liquid carrier called 'Tianlong-3', as 'comparable to SpaceX's Falcon 9', with a diameter of 3.8 meters and a takeoff mass of 590 tons.

The rocket was designed to help build China’s satellite internet network.

But while everything seemed to be going to plan at first, with the company describing how the first-stage rocket 'ignited normally', things took a turn due to a 'structural failure at the connection between the rocket body and the test bench'.

The rocket ended up separating from the launch pad and taking off, after which the computer on board 'automatically shut down'.

It didn't make it to space, but instead hit a hilly area of the city of Gongyi, in central China, where it 'disintegrated'.

The failed test caused a huge explosion. (X/@DriveGreen80167)
The failed test caused a huge explosion. (X/@DriveGreen80167)

Footage of the incident shared online shows how the rocket initially blasted straight into the air, before it lost power and began hurtling back to Earth.

The first stage could then be seen landing among the hills and igniting a huge explosion, with fire and clouds blooming in the sky.

In the wake of the explosion, Space Pioneer assured the test site where the rocket blasted off from is far away from the urban areas of the city.

It added that it had worked with the local government to 'improve safety measures and organize the evacuation of surrounding personnel in advance'.

The rocket fell back to Earth after accidentally launching. (X/@DriveGreen80167)
The rocket fell back to Earth after accidentally launching. (X/@DriveGreen80167)

"After [an] investigation, no casualties were found," Space Pioneer said.

The Gongyi emergency management bureau released its own statement following the incident which confirmed it found parts of the rocket stage scattered within a 'safe area'.

The bureau noted that the rocket had caused a fire which has since been extinguished.

Space Pioneer is a leading company in the commercial rocket industry, and last year it made history in China by successfully launching its Tianlong-2 rocket.

The rocket made Space Pioneer the first commercial launch operator in China to send a liquid carrier rocket into orbit.

The company's mishap on Sunday marked a contrast to some impressive manoeuvres from SpaceX last month, when the Elon Musk-led company managed to land two rocket boosters back on Earth with incredible precision.

Featured Image Credit: X/@spacesudoer/X/@DriveGreen80167

Topics: China, Space, Technology, Science