Monday, July 3, 2017

China’s most powerful rocket failed yesterday. What does that mean for the country’s space plans?

Yesterday, the launch of a Chinese communications satellite ended in failure when the rocket carrying the probe somehow malfunctioned during flight. It’s a significant loss for China since the vehicle that failed — the Long March 5 — is the country’s premier heavy-lift rocket. And its failure could have a significant impact on the future of China’s ambitions in space.

It’s still unclear exactly what happened. Shortly after the flight, China’s official press agency, Xinhua, simply reported that “an anomaly occurred” during launch and that there would be an investigation into the problem. But some clues seem to indicate the issue may have started in the main core of the rocket. A plume of gas was seen around the main engines of the vehicle...

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