Chinese rocket fails on maiden launch

BEIJING • A new Chinese medium-lift rocket, part of a family of launch vehicles meant to support most of China's launch missions in future, failed on its debut flight, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Long March 7A (LM-7A), a variant of the Long March 7 (LM-7), blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan on Monday morning.

But it later suffered a malfunction, the cause of which is being investigated, Xinhua said.

With its specifications and capabilities, the LM-7A is well placed to become China's main rocket for communication satellite missions, potentially replacing older rockets in the LM-2, LM-3 and LM-4 range.

The LM-7 family is also expected to be central to the construction of China's space station, which is due for completion in 2022.

It was not clear how the timetable for near-term orbital launches would be affected by the failed LM-7A mission.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said in January that it aimed to carry out more than 40 launches this year, including space infrastructure missions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made the space programme a priority to strengthen national security and defence.

The government has stressed that it is a purely peaceful initiative.

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2020, with the headline 'Chinese rocket fails on maiden launch'. Print Edition | Subscribe