Evidence of explosion in ’21 detected from orbital images of Chinese launchpad

Explosion at Chinese spaceporty
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Using orbital images, an amateur space observer has detected evidence that an explosion had occurred at the Chinese Jiuquan spaceport some time in October 2021.

Evidence of the explosion was discovered by space enthusiast Harry Stranger using imagery from Airbus and CNES and posted on Twitter June 10.

The incident occurred at facilities constructed around 16 kilometers to the southwest of Jiuquan’s two main launch complexes. The pair of launch pads are used by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) for hypergolic Long March rocket launches for human spaceflight, civil, military and scientific missions and were unaffected by the blast.

…Further satellite imagery from Planet’s Super Dove satellites seen by SpaceNews indicates that the explosion occurred between 0316 UTC on Oct. 15 and 0407 UTC Oct. 16 (11:16 p.m, Oct. 14 and 12:07 a.m. October 16 Eastern).

At almost exactly the same time China had launched a manned mission from this same spaceport, so the explosion apparently was not related to that launch. Instead, the images suggest that this was related to testing of solid rockets, and could be related as well to the delay in any further launches of the Kuaizhou-11 rocket. According to a press release several months earlier, that rocket was being prepared for a launch by the end of 2021, but no such launch ever occurred.