Terrifying Video Shows Suspected Chinese Rocket Debris Falling Over Village After Launch

On Saturday, suspected debris from a Chinese rocket was seen plummeting to the ground over a village in southwest China, causing alarm among villagers and drawing widespread attention on social media.

After the launch of the Long March 2C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday, which successfully launched the Space Variable Objects Monitor, a satellite developed by China and France to study gamma-ray bursts, into orbit, there was a dramatic video posted on Chinese social media platforms showing the debris trailing bright yellow smoke as it fell towards Xianqiao village in Guizhou Province.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has increased efforts to compete with other big countries like the US and made it a national priority to position China as a leading space power. Despite the recent debris controversy, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) declared the launch a “complete success.”

Videos on CNN showed footage of rocket debris falling close to a hill in Xianqiao village, causing a yellow haze. Initially shared on websites like Kuaishou, the footage showed villagers running from the scene and shielding their ears from the loud smash. “There was a strong smell and the sound of an explosion,” one witness reported.

Local officials had issued a now-deleted warning alerting locals to leave their houses before the launch to prevent potential injury from “toxic gas and explosion.” They also received instructions not to post videos online or take pictures of the debris. Local authorities reported no immediate injuries.

Rocket specialist Markus Schiller of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute identified the debris as the first-stage booster of the Long March 2C rocket. This rocket is powered by hazardous propellants such as unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide. “This combination always creates these orange smoke trails. It’s extremely toxic and carcinogenic,” Schiller explained.

Due to Cold War-era security concerns, China’s interior launch sites, such as Xichang, Jiuquan, and Taiyuan, are far from the coastline. To reduce the risk to populated regions, Western space organizations, on the contrary, usually launch rockets from coastal areas over oceans. Additionally, these organizations have mainly discontinued harmful liquid fuels, but China and Russia continue to do so.

There has already been damage from Chinese rocket debris. Homes in the southern Hunan Province were damaged by rocket debris that fell in December 2023, while a young boy in northern China was hurt by falling satellite launch fragments in 2002.

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