Chinese “Long March” Booster Lands Near School


After launching a new satellite on Sept. 7, a Chinese Long March 4B rocket’s first stage was captured on its return to earth, narrowly missing a school in the process. The payload is said to have been the Gaofen 11, a so-called “Earth observation” satellite capable of capturing high-resolution images less than 3 feet across. 

The Long March 4B’s propellant is hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide, which is the orange cloud seen in the amateur footage. China has three “in land” launch sites and reportedly allows spent boosters to come down on land, warning local inhabitants should evacuation become necessary. 

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KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. I wonder if anyone has cautioned the school about how dangerous and toxic hydrazine is and how unstable nitrogen tetroxide is. Any souvenir hunters could get a nasty surprise. Also, I wonder what all that debris is that came off the upper stages of the rocket shortly after launch. It looked like it was coming apart.

  2. Didn’t their spies find out how Elon backs his Falcon 9’s Stage I back down onto the same spot it took off from ??

    The F-16 (“the electric jet”) uses hydrazine to power its EPU — Emergency Power Unit. That stuff looks just like water. In the beginning — especially out in the Mojave desert — we were taught that if we saw what looked like water under the airplane, hold your nose, run like hell away from it and call the guys in rubber suits.