On June 10, Harry Stranger, a space enthusiast, discovered an explosion that severely damaged rocket facilities at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in October 2021 via imagery from Airbus and CNES. Chinese media have yet to report on the topic.

Jiuquan spaceport is situated in the Gobi Desert and hosts major orbital launches, including all of the country’s Shenzhou human spaceflight missions. The accident is likely related to the testing and assembly of solid rockets in October 2021 by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). 

CASIC, a state-owned giant defense contractor, separated from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). They are developing a series of solid rockets for orbital launches and have established infrastructure at Jiuquan for launches of Kuaizhou-1A and larger Kuaizhou-11 rockets. A different technique was used with transport erector launchers rather than a launch pad and service structure. Both Kuaizhou-1A and Kuaizhou-11 haven’t been successfully launched so far. 

The apparent aftermath of an explosion is visible in an image from November 2021. Space.com reviewed the detailed photos provided by Planet’s Super Dove satellite and confirmed that the blast would have occurred between 11:13 on October 15, 2021, and 12:07 on October 16, 2021. The accident, however, did not affect the Shenzhou 13 manned flight mission, which took off from a Long March-2F launch vehicle in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 0:23 on October 16.

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