China Suffers Rare Satellite Launch Failure

China Suffers Rare Satellite Launch Failure

A Chinese Long March 4B rocket failed to place a remote sensing satellite into orbit today, a rare launch failure for China.

The joint Chinese-Brazilian Ziyuan I-03 satellite lifted off from China’s Taiyuan launch site at 11:26 am today, December 9, Beijing time (10:26 pm yesterday Eastern Standard Time).  China’s news agency Xinhua quoted unnamed sources, however, as saying “The rocket malfunctioned  during the flight, and the satellite failed to enter orbit.”

Ziyuan I-03 is also called CBERS-3.   It is the latest in a series of Chinese-Brazilian satellites under the China-Brazil Earth Remote Sensing (CBERS) program.  Ziyuan I-01 (CBERS-1), Ziyuan I-02 (CBERS-2), and Ziyuan I-02B (CBERS-2B) were launched in 1999, 2003, and 2007, respectively, according to the website of Brazil’s space agency INPE.  The satellite that was lost today carried what INPE describes as “the first satellite camera entirely developed and produced in Brazil” called MUX, which is a 20-meter resolution multispectral camera. lists three other sensors on the satellite, a Brazilian Panchromatic and Multispectral Camera (PanMUX), a Chinese Infrared System (IRS) and a Chinese Wide-Field Imager (WFI).

China has been enjoying a long string of launch successes.  Its last failure of any version of the Long March was in August 2011 when a Long March 2C failed to place Shijian-11-04 into orbit.  Jonathan McDowell’s Jonathan’s Space Report said a second stage engine malfunctioned in that case.   The Long March 4B used today has not had a failure since 1999 according to

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