China Admits Major Rocket Launch Was ‘Unsuccessful’

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A Chinese rocket failed to carry an important communications satellite into orbit in an embarrassing glitch for the country’s space program, state-run media admitted Sunday.

“Abnormity was detected during the flight of the rocket,” Xinhua News Agency reported. “Further investigation will be carried out,” Xinhua reported, without giving further details.

China’s Long March-5 Y2 rocket had taken off with the Shijian-18 experimental communications satellite, which it was supposed to put into orbit. If the launch had been successful, the satellite would have provided internet and television access to much of rural China.

The Long March-5Y2  is the most powerful rocket China has yet developed and is theoretically capable of lifting 25 tonnes into orbit. The rocket was part of China’s plans to expand the “strength and size” of its space program. The country previously launched a similar rocket successfully last November.

China intends to invest $2.17 billion into its space program between 2026 and 2030, about three to four times more than the $695 million it spent from 2011 to 2016. The country’s annual space budget will be comparatively less than NASA. The U.S. space agency is spending more on programs not directly related to space exploration.

Since launching its first manned mission in 2003, China has sent up two experimental space stations, staged a spacewalk, sent a major new telescope to orbit and landed a rover on the moon.

China says the country will use space for peaceful purposes like scientific research and also to guarantee the country’s national security and prestige. The country hopes to soft land the first probe on the far side of the moon by 2018 and place a robot on Mars by 2020.

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