Did China lose a spy satellite in a SpaceX-style launch failure? Reports suggest government cover …

Did China lose a spy satellite in a SpaceX-style launch failure? Reports suggest government cover up

  • Long March 7 rocket launched from Shanxi satellite centre last Thursday
  • It was carrying an advanced Gaofen-10 surveillance satellite into orbit
  • Reports indicate the boosters malfunctioned sometime after the launch
  • State media have not reported on the launch, stoking claims of a cover up

Ryan O’Hare for MailOnline

September has not been a good month for launching satellites. 

Reports have emerged that the Chinese government may be covering up a failed rocket launch which resulted in the loss of a cutting edge spy satellite.

The rocket, which launched from Shanxi on Thursday, is thought to have failed to get its cargo – an advanced earth observation satellite – into orbit.

There are social media reports of a police search carried out to find debris strewn across the neighbouring Shaanxi province.

The reports follow in the wake of last week’s SpaceX disaster, in which Elon Musk’s firm lost an Israeli communications satellite when its Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad.

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Reports have emerged that the Chinese government may be covering up a failed rocket launch which resulted in the loss of a cutting edge spy satellite. Pictured is one of China's Long March 4 rockets launching from Wenchang in China's Hainan province

Reports have emerged that the Chinese government may be covering up a failed rocket launch which resulted in the loss of a cutting edge spy satellite. Pictured is one of China’s Long March 4 rockets launching from Wenchang in China’s Hainan province

DID CHINA LOSE A SPY SAT?

Last Thursday at 2.55am local time, China’s space agency launched a Gaofen-10 satellite into orbit.

It is believed a third-stage rocket failure meant the Long March 7 rocket it was travelling on didn’t have enough thrust to get it into orbit.

Reports later circulated on social media of a launch ‘failure’, with images of debris in Shaanxi provice, under the flight path.

Official news outlets have not covered further news of the launch or the state of the satellite, which experts believe could be indirect confirmation by the Chinese state of mission failure.

According to the South China Morning Post, the Gaofen-10 satellite was part of a network which would provide ’24-hour intelligence gathering capabilities for military and civilian users by 2020’, with sufficient coverage to spy on any spot on the planet.

Despite a successful launch aboard a Long March 4 rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, it plummeted back to Earth minutes later, reportedly due to a fault with the boosters of the rocket’s third stage.

Chinese language website Chinaspaceflight.com reports a 6-metre wide piece of the rocket’s satellite fairing – the covering which protects the payload but it is jettisoned after leaving Earth’s lower atmosphere – was recovered from Shaanxi after it fell to Earth.

Images circulated on Chinese social media platform Weibo, showing the fairing as well as the first stage of the rocket, were subsequently taken down by authorities. 

The South China Morning Post reports that coverage of the launch has been absent from official news outlets. 

Experts believe this indicates indirect confirmation by the state of mission failure, it adds.

Chinese citizens took to Weibo to comment on the apparent failure, reported the Wall Street Journal.

One user commented: ‘We can accept success and withstand failure. The Chinese people’s psychological endurance isn’t as fragile as you think.’

The reported loss of the Chinese Gaofen-10 satellite follows in the wake of a loss from US-firm SpaceX last week

The incident happened during an engine test on the launch pad last week ahead of the planned launch

The Israeli firm could also collect £154m ($205m) from Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the satellite

The reported loss of the Chinese Gaofen-10 satellite follows in the wake of a loss from SpaceX last week. The AMOS-6 satellite was aboard a Falcon 9 rocket which exploded during a test fire in Florida last week, destroying the rocket and its cargo (pictured left to right)

Another added: ‘Can the news media show some professionalism, or can the propaganda departments be more frank?’ 

China’s space agency, a branch of the military, has historically been secretive about its missions and longer term goals.

Earlier this year the Chinese space agency launched technology aimed at tackling the growing problem of space trash in orbit around the Earth, raising concerns the technology could be used to take out Western communications satellites if needed.

The government has cited the safety record of its Long March rockets. 

This incident is the first failure since the loss of the CBERS 03 satellite, a joint venture between China and Brazil, which was lost after its carrier, a Chang Zheng rocket, failed in 2013.

CHINA’S EFFORTS TO COLLECT SPACE JUNK

The Chinese space agency (CNSA) has launched a robotic prototype into orbit which it said is aimed at tackling space debris. 

Analysts have warned that the if it is successful, more prototypes could easily be produced and delivered into orbit.

There are concerns that these trash bots could be activated in wartime, when they could target and disable enemy satellites.

With such heavy reliance on satellites for communications, disabling them could leave nations crippled and more open to attack.