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A booster from a Chinese Long March 3B rocket launch dropped from the sky and exploded near buildings in Guangxi, southwest China on Friday, shocking locals and onlookers.
The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province at 07:18 local time on Friday, carrying two Beidou-3 GNSS satellites.
Minutes after launch as the rocket flew downrange, four strap-on boosters separated from the core, with one dropping near the town of Xiangdu in Tiandeng Country, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, around 700 kilometres from the launch site.
The booster did not hit any people or buildings, but the still burning wreckage will have posed a serious health hazard to locals who approached to film the debris, as seen below.
China's first three launch sites were established during the Cold War, with Jiuquan and Taiyuan constructed deep inland for security reasons. This means that today's space launches pass over inhabited areas. Though drop zones for Long March rocket stages are carefully calculated and launch notices and procedures put in places, events like the above are all too common, especially with China's space activities expanding greatly in recent years.
An unidentified man stands next to what is likely an engine from a Long March 4C rocket from the launch of the Chinese Yaogan Weixing-27 satellite in August 2015. Internet photo