- China successfully launched the Gaofen-11 satellite Monday
- Part of the rocket reportedly crashed very close to a populated area
- Footage of the event shows thick orange smoke coming from the crash site
China successfully launched a new satellite Monday and witness videos reveal that part of the rocket nearly crashed at a school.
Fresh off the successful launch and return of its experimental spaceplane, China launched the remote sensing Gaofen-11 satellite at 1:57 a.m. EDT last Monday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China.
According to official news sources, Gaofen-11 is an optical remote-sensing satellite that’s capable of capturing and returning high-resolution images. It will be used in tasks such as land census, urban planning, crop estimation and disaster prevention.
After its successful launch, it will join other Gaofen satellites in the China High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS), which was established in 2010 as one of China’s major national science and technology projects.
However, amateur footage captured and shared on the Chinese social media site Weibo appears to show a part of the Long March 4B rocket as it was falling to Earth. Video of the event shows the rocket as it is falling from the sky, then orange smoke can later be seen from what is assumed to be the crash site. Another view of the crash appears to show the reddish smoke quite close to what looks like school grounds.
According to reports, the wreckage of the rocket crashed in the village of Lilong in Gaoyao Township, where several villagers reportedly heard a loud noise then saw the orange smoke coming from the hillside behind the school.
In the U.S., the location of a launch site is determined by a particular location’s access to useful orbits while also taking public safety into consideration. For this reason, they are built as far away from major cities as possible in case there will be problems with the launch and, they are often built close to water so that any debris that could fall back to Earth would crash into the ocean and not in a possibly populated area.
According to Space.com, several of China’s launch sites are deep inland, with launches from Xichang being prone to debris falling in populated areas. As such, the areas that are deemed to be potentially threatened are evacuated ahead of time.
In the case of the debris that crashed following the Sept. 7 launch, it is still unclear whether the residents in the affected area had been forewarned of the possible threat.