China's launch of a new heavy-lift rocket, the Long March-5 Y2, carrying what the government said was its heaviest satellite, failed yesterday, official news agency Xinhua said. The launch, broadcast live by Chinese media, appeared to go as planned, but those broadcasts ended prior to any announcement of separation of the rocket's payload, the Shijian-18 communications satellite. But Xinhua later reported that the rocket launch has failed.
The 7 metric tonne satellite was to be sent to geostationary orbit, some 36,000 kilometres above Earth. At that time, China said it was the most powerful launcher it had yet developed.
The Long March-5 successfully completed its maiden flight in November 2016 and was slated for a third launch later this year, carrying lunar probe Chang'e-5.
"I'm sure the Chinese are very disappointed with this failure, as the delays [to its space station and other plans] have become harder and harder to explain without China being seen as slipping in the advances its been able to make". Details of the failure were not immediately available.
The Long March 5 is a key part of China's human spaceflight and planetary exploration plans.
Several launches of the Long March-5 were scheduled in preparation for China's lunar probe, manned space station and Mars probe missions, according to Xinhua.
Last month China successfully launched the Long March-4B, its first X-ray space telescope to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts.
China is carrying out massive space programme in recent years with missions to moon and manned missions to build a space station which is now under construction.