China was early this morning expected to launch its Gaofen-10 Earth observation satellite from Taiyuan, following the issuance of an airspace exclusion zone days in advance. However, it seems the launch did not go to plan. Gaofen-10, nominally part of the ‘CHEOS’ Earth observation system for civilian purposes, was due to be launched on a Long March 4C rocket between 18:46 and 19:11 UTC on Wednesday (02:46-03:11 Thursday Beijing time). China usually releases information of launches once payloads are successfully heading towards their target orbits around an hour after launch. Much earlier, spectators and insiders often share details and photos of the launch on social media.
However, many hours after the launch window passed there was still silence, with the launch timing and location of the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre apparently limiting opportunities for outside viewers.
The launch however was not scrubbed, as first stage launch debris was found as expected along the flight path, suggesting that some failure occurred with the upper stage.
Like today’s Falcon 9 failure, this Chinese failure could have a rippling effect on their ambitious plans this fall, including the launch of their next space station followed by a 30-day manned mission.
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