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China’s Long March 4C rocket launches two satellites

Long March 4C launch

China today launched two experimental technology satellites, using its Long March 4C rocket from an interior spaceport.

The launch pictures, as captured on the right, show what appear to be panels falling off the rocket as it lifts off. Note how some of these falling panels are red, while the Chinese flag at the top of the rocket appears to be partly broken off in the later picture. The fairing and shell of the upper stage in the second picture also appear changed.

The Chinese state-run press claims the satellites reached orbit as planned, but these pictures suggest otherwise. If part of the fairing and outside of the upper stage fell off, there is a good chance the payload was damaged during max-q, the period soon after launch when rockets undergo the greatest stress in the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

UPDATE from stringer Jay: Video of the launch. The panels continue to drop off for a considerable time.

Assuming this launch was a success, however, the 2022 launch race continues to heat up, with China vying to beat SpaceX after trailing the American company for most of the year.

58 China
56 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 80 to 58 in the national rankings, but trails the entire world combined 88 to 80.

Genesis cover

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  • pzatchok

    Right now the Chinese techs are damning the cheap Indian screws they used to hold those panels on.

  • Robert,

    I am surprised you did not know of the innovative Chinese booster-return technology. Parts deemed unnecessary at a particular stage of flight are jettisoned, later to be recovered and reassembled. Lift mass is also reduced as the rocket ascends.

  • Edward

    I have long been under the impression that these panels are insulation that is supposed to come off in the early part of flight. However, in an attempt to confirm this, I am finding confusing explanations, such as that they are coverings and some explanations suggest that they are used only at certain times of the year (e.g. colder times).

    No matter what they are, they are part of the intended launch and their presence in the space around the rocket at launch does not affect the safety of the payload or the success of the launch.

    On the other hand, Chinese citizens still need to keep an eye on the sky whenever there is a launch of a Chinese rocket:

  • I had honestly thought Blair Ivey was being sarcastic, but apparently Edward confirms this method by the Chinese to lower weight on launch. I had never heard of it before. Thank you.

  • I was being sarcastic, so can take no credit for this revelation. Art imitates life imitates art.

    The Chinese sure have a trashy space program. Maybe Western launch companies should play up the environmental-friendliness of their products.

  • Edward_2

    > Chinese techs are damning the cheap Indian screws they used

    Now Commie China is experiencing problems from counterfeit components.


  • pzatchok

    You would think that if they were designed to fall of they would do so in a more organized manner.

    You would also think they would not go through the effort of paining them all fancy before they come off.

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