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Long March-4B rocket fails to launch joint satellite into orbit

Updated: 2013-12-10 00:39
By Zhao Lei ( China Daily)

China said late on Monday it failed to put into orbit a satellite jointly developed by the nation and Brazil, due to rocket malfunctions.

A statement carried by the Xinhua News Agency said the Ziyuan-1-03 remote sensing satellite was launched at 11:26 am aboard a Long March-4B rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province, but malfunctions occurred during the flight, resulting in the satellite failing to enter its preset orbit.

Experts from both countries are analyzing the cause of the malfunctions and said they are "confident in their future cooperation", the statement added without giving any further details.

The 1,980-kg Ziyuan-1-03, or CBERS-3 as it's known in Brazil, is a remote sensing satellite that is part of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite Program between the China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application and Brazil's National Institute for Space Research.

It was the fourth of the CBERS satellite series. The first satellite of the series, ZY-1, or CBERS-1, was successfully launched in October 1999. CBERS-2 and CBERS-2B were launched in October 2003 and September 2007. The vehicles for all the launches were Long March-4B rockets.

Ziyuan-1-03 was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, and had a design life of three years. The satellite carried four instruments including a panchromatic imager and a wide-field imaging camera.

The Long March-4B, an orbital carrier rocket, is a 3-stage rocket, used mostly to place satellites into low Earth and sun-synchronous orbits. The first was launched in May 1999, successfully carrying the FY-1C weather satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.

Monday's failure is the first time the Long March-4B rocket has encountered a setback, following 19 successful launches.

"Though the launch failed, we should still be confident in China's rocket technologies and launch capabilities," said Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine.

"After all, a rocket is composed of tens of thousands of components and concentrates some of the most complicated technologies so no one dares guarantee their rockets are 100 percent reliable and problem-free," he said.

"One failure doesn't mean anything. Our success rate is still higher than that of our rivals."

The country's last launch failure took place in August 2011, when a Long March-2C rocket malfunctioned in flight. The incident led to the delayed launch of Tiangong-1, China's first space station module.

China announced in 1985 it would begin to provide launch services to international clients and fulfilled its first launch contract in 1990, when a communication satellite was sent to space on a Long March-3 booster.

Before Monday's flight, China had launched 36 rockets, which carried 42 satellites, for foreign clients, and provided several piggyback launch services to foreign clients.

China aims to take 10 percent of the international satellite market and 15 percent of the global commercial launch field by the end of 2015, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the country's leading developer in spacecraft and rocket.