Part of a rocket engine crashes through the roof of a house in northeast China’s Shanxi province early Friday morning.

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It appears to be a nozzle from the first stage engine of a Long March 4C rocket, which China’s new Yaogan-27 satellite into space from Taiyuan Launch Base in Shanxi Province on Thursday night.

According to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, the three-stage rocket lifted off at 10:31 PM U.S. Eastern Time on Aug. 27. A few hours later, at 4:06 AM Eastern Time, UK-based news outlet SinoDefense tweeted these images and said, “CZ4 rocket debris fell into a house in Shaanxi after Yaogan27 launch yesterday. Possible 1st stage engine.”

Image Credit: SinoDefense

Image Credit: SinoDefense

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It’s not clear where the rest of the YF-20 first stage engine landed.

Not the First Time

The nozzle resembles the one in January 2015 photos of the wreckage of Long March 3A first stage alongside a rural road near the small city of Fuquan in the Guizhou Province of southwestern China. That rocket had just launched from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, carrying the Fengyun 26 weather satellite, and its first stage fell back to Earth about 300 miles east of the launch site.

It’s not clear exactly how often people living within a few hundred miles of China’s launch sites end up with engine nozzles falling into their houses or whole first stage engines crashing by the side of the road, but it’s not unheard of. China’s rocket launch facilities are all inland, and although their surrounding areas are largely rural, they’re still populated densely enough that there’s a risk.

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Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, is also an inland launch site, although the steppes of Kazakhstan are more sparsely populated than rural northern China. The U.S., India, Japan, and the European Space Agency (whose launch site is in French Guiana) launch from coastlines, so debris typically falls into the ocean.

Spy Satellite?

The rocket’s payload, a satellite called Yaogan-27, made it safely into orbit, according to Xinhua. China didn’t announce the launch in advance, which — along with details of the satellite’s orbit — led many sources to conclude that Yaogan-27 is probably the next in a series of reconnaissance satellites. The Chinese government claims it’s for “experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates, and disaster prevention.


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