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Lose a satellite? Us? China silent on fate of Gaofen civilian/spy sat

Elon Musk must wish he could order media to remove mention of failures like China can

By Richard Chirgwin, 6 Sep 2016

It wasn't just a bad week for SpaceX: China's is mourning the loss of an Earth observation satellite launched on September 1.

As US space blog NASA Spaceflight notes, there's no official statement on the fate of the Long March mission that was supposed to lift Gaofen (“high resolution”) 10 into orbit.

That's a hint that not all is well, since state media reported that the launch took place – but have since provided no update to say the satellite has reached orbit.

The Chinese “Love Space” Website Aihangtian.com, which first speculated that the mission had failed (cached by Google here) was down at the time of writing.

Love Space says after launch, the first stage separated correctly and crashed into Shangluo City in the Shaanxi Province, while the fairing separated and fell in Enshi City, in Shing Xiangjiaba territory.

That points to the third stage as the most likely point of failure, and if the satellite failed to reach orbit, it will have burned on re-entry.

The South China Morning Post says local law enforcement posted images to Weibo, since removed, showing police in Shaanxi searching for debris, but those photos have also been taken down.

Gaofen 10 was part of an effort to build a network of earth-sensing satellites for military and civilian use, carrying the latest generation of Chinese-made optical sensors.

In August, a Gaofen spy satellite launched successfully.

If it is indeed a failure, it's the first for a Long March lifter since December 2013. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing