Launch fails for China's heavy-lift carrier rocket

With a weight of 7.5 tonnes, the Shijian-18 satellite represents China's latest technology and is the heaviest satellite China has ever launched into space. It is not clear how the timetable for that mission will be affected by the failed launch.

Experts will investigate the cause of the glitch for the launch of the Long March-5 Y2, China's second heavy-lift carrier rocket, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern province of Hainan, Xinhua said. The launch was televised live and appeared to go well initially (at 53:55 on the video).

Long March-5 Y2 rocket is capable of lifting 25 tonnes into a low earth orbit and a 14 tonne class of communications satellite.

The Long March 5's maiden test flight previous year had launched Shijian 17. Details of the failure were not immediately available. It also was not clear whether the rocket, which was carrying a communication satellite, had entered its orbit.

The satellite was meant to boost internet access and providing access to more television channels.

The first launch of Long March 5 took place on November 3, 2016 and successfully placed the SJ-17 experimental communications satellite into geostationary orbit.

"The failure points out that rocket science isn't easy - if it were there would be a lot more countries with the capabilities so far reserved to the US, Russia and a handful of others within varying degrees", says Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, expressing her personal views.

Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rise and of the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

The next Long March 5 launch was scheduled for November, carrying the Chang'e-5 spacecraft.

  • Neal Todd