Above the city of Xiangdu in southwestern China crashed a rocket engine that was fired from the Xichang Satellites Launch Center. Fortunately, no one was injured during the incident.
Usually space agencies ensure that rocket launches organize near seas, oceans or empty areas, and China has just received a kind of reminder of why. One of the Chang Zheng 3B rocket engines (Long March 3B) crashed and exploded near the city of Xiangdu located in the southwest of the country, 700 kilometers from its launch platform at the Xichang Satellites Start Center.
Of course, such incidents are not completely unheard of, but this has been recorded on video, which is rare. As you can see in the video below, several residents of the city witnessed the moment when the engine drove into the hillside and literally formed a ball of fire.
Although no-one has fallen victim to a falling engine or damaged property, this does not mean that the whole situation was safe. China usually tries to predict where the engine may fall (so as to warn early and sometimes even evacuate the inhabitants of the area) to make sure that no one will be injured, but this time it did not go completely as planned. What’s more, highly toxic rocket fuel and secondary explosions created additional risks for curious observers.
However, it should be added that China does not have much choice in this matter. As the Atlantic service explains, three Chinese establishments for launching rocket launches were opened during the Cold War, when fears of potential attacks took precedence over absolute security. This meant that such a center should be as far away from international borders as possible, guaranteeing that some starts would pose a threat to populated regions. Recall that 1996 the rocket hit directly in the city of Xichang, killing at least 6 people, and wounding dozens of others. Now China is trying to build spaceports in safer places (such as the island of Hainan), but it will take some time for such incidents as the one discussed here to become a thing of the past.