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On The 3rd Of January 2019, China Became The First Nation To Successfully Land A Spacecraft On The Far Side Of The Moon. This Incredible Achievement Showed Just How Impressive China’s Space Program Has Become.
Rocket Crash In China
With The Most Amount Of Annual Launches And The Capability Of Launching Humans Into Orbit, China Is Now Regarded As One Of The Most Powerful Space Programs In The World. But Among All Of The Success, There Is A Dark Side To China’s Space Program. With Their Extremely Relaxed Safety Standards, Rockets Are Frequently Launched Over Inhabited Areas - Sometimes Crashing Into Populated Towns And Villages.

In This Article, We’re Going To Look At Why China Began Launching Over Inhabited Areas In The First Place. We’re Also Going To Look At How Their Quest To Develop Reusable Rockets Might Fix This Issue Altogether.

In The Midst Of The Cold War, The US And The Soviet Union Were Constantly Demonstrating Their Advancements In Nuclear Weapons And Missile Technology. In 1957, The Soviets Launched The First Ever Satellite Into Orbit - And China Realised It Needed To Create Its Own Space Program In Order To Keep Up. Over The Course Of Two Decades, China Built Three Main Launch Sites - Capable Of Launching Missiles And Satellites Into Orbit. These Launch Sites Were Built Thousands Of Kilometres Inland To Make Them Less Exposed To Enemy Attacks. But This Came At A Cost, Since Rockets Had To Be Launched Directly Over Populated Areas.

When Choosing The Best Location For A Launch Site, There Are A Couple Of Factors That Come Into Play. As A Rocket Leaves The Launch Pad, It Pitches Over To Gain The Incredible Amount Of Horizontal Velocity Needed To Get Into Orbit. Because Of This, Launch Sites Are Typically Located On The Coast Where Falling Rocket Parts Can Safely Fall Into The Ocean.

Another Factor That Determines The Location Of A Launch Site Is The Latitude. Launch Sites Closer To The Equator Benefit From The Extra Speed Of The Earth’s Rotation, Meaning The Rocket Requires Less Energy To Get Into Orbit. But In The Midst Of The Cold War - And With Tensions At An All Time High, China Went Inland And Further North For Their Launch Sites.

Throughout The 60’s And 70’s, China Quickly Became One Of The Major Powers In Space – Creating Heavy Lift Rockets And Successfully Launching And Recovering A Satellite. But In A Rush To Catch Up To The American And Soviet Space Programs, Safety Standards Became Less Of A Priority.

In 1996, China Were Launching Their Largest Rocket Ever Built, The Long March 3B. As Soon As It Left The Launch Pad, It Immediately Began Veering Off Course Before Crashing Into A Nearby Village, 20 Seconds Later. This Disaster Killed At Least 6 People – However Many Reports Outside Of China Estimate That The Death Toll Was In The Hundreds. Although This Disaster Was Caused By An Unexpected Fault In The Rocket, It Didn’t Stop China From Launching Over Populated Areas.

Over The Last 10 Years, There Have Been Several Reports Of Rocket Debris Falling Onto People’s Homes. Many Of China’s Launches Take Place From Their Xichang Launch Site. As The Long March 3B Launches, The 4 Boosters Are Dropped Shortly Before The Enormous First Stage. Although China Try To Drop These Rockets Stages Onto Unpopulated Areas Of Forrest, There Are Around 14 Villages Directly In The Path Of The Launch Site.

A Few Days Before These Launches Take Place, The Government Send Out Evacuation Notices To The Local Residents - Telling Them To Turn Off Their Power And Find A Safe Place To Hide. To Make Matters Worse, The Long March 3B Rocket Uses Hypergolic Fuel Which Is Extremely Toxic – So, Residents Are Told To Stay Far Away From The Debris Once It Has Landed.

Every Nation Has Its Own Style Of Operating In Space, But China’s History With Space Has Led Many Other Nations To Lose Trust In Them. Despite Having One Of The Most Advanced Space Programs In The World, China Has Never Been Allowed To Participate In The International Space Station. Even Though China Would Bring A Large Amount Of Money To The Table, The US Officially Banned Them From The ISS Since They Feared China Would Only Use The Opportunity To Steal Technology. But When It Comes To Dealing With Human Safety, It’s Not Surprising That China Weren’t Allowed To Take Part. But China Is Finally Doing Something To Break Away From Their Rocket Dropping Habit.
A New Launch Site Has Been Built On The Island Of Hainan, Which Will Allow Some Of China’s Largest Rockets To Launch Over Sea. China Has Started To Add Grid Fins To Some Of Their Rockets - Similar To The Ones Seen On The Falcon 9. This Gives The Rocket The Ability To Steer Itself To A Precise Point As It Falls Out Of The Sky.

Although This Is Mostly Likely A Sign That China Is Trying To Develop A Reusable Rocket, It At Least Has The Benefit Of Saving Innocent People From Falling Rocket Stages.

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