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Satellite images reveal huge explosion and destruction at Chinese rocket test site

Published Jun 17th, 2022 12:08AM EDT
space launch system
Image: 3dsculptor/Adobe

New satellite images shared on social media show evidence of a massive explosion at a Chinese rocket launch site. The Chinese rocket explosion took place sometime between October and November at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the images show.

Satellite images suggest a Chinese rocket explosion took place in October 2021

The images show what appears to be a rocket test site. The site itself is located a good distance from the actual launch pad. Around 16km away from it, to be exact. The site was most likely used as an assembly and test facility before the rockets were moved to the launch pad. So far there have been no reports from state media about the Chinese rocket explosion.

Space enthusiast Harry Stranger shared the images on Twitter in early June. Stranger noticed the aftermath of the explosion in commercial satellite images captured by Airbus and CNES. According to SpaceNews, the Chinese state media has yet to make any reports on the explosion.

The good news is that the Chinese rocket explosion doesn’t appear to have involved any kind of crewed launch. SpaceNews notes that the site where the explosion took place may have been used for testing solid rocket motors. Upon further investigation SpaceNews also reports that the explosion took place between 0316 UTC on October 15 and 0407 UTC on October 16, 2021.

Digging deeper

chinese rocket explosion did not take place at the actual launch padImage source: YouTube

Based on the fact that no reports have been made by state media, it’s likely the Chinese rocket explosion had nothing to do with any high-profile launches. CASIC, a state-owned defense contractor has been developing new solid rockets for orbital launches. Thus far, those launches have ended in failure. China may have used the site to test those rocket motors.

Ultimately, though, this doesn’t seem to have affected China’s ongoing space missions. Missions like the possible development of an asteroid monitoring and defense system. With so many dangerous entities floating through the cosmos, it’s a noble effort many countries are striving towards.

The Chinese rocket explosion is still an intriguing mystery. If it was related to China’s ongoing solid rocket efforts, then it could set those efforts behind even more than they already are. Or it could be completely unrelated. Unfortunately, until we know more about the site itself, discovering what exactly exploded in October of 2021 is going to be difficult.

What we do know is that China already began cleaning up the facility, as seen in other images shared by Harry Stranger on Twitter.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.