A Chinese rocket is back on Sunday after blowing up during a test firing a day earlier, sparking a cybersecurity investigation by the United States.
The rocket, named Long March-4C, was carrying a satellite that passed over China’s own weather station, and triggered a small explosion as it approached, officials said.
South Korean and Japanese space agencies said their satellites were also in orbit at the time, but were not affected. Chinese state media said the satellite was being used for climate monitoring.
A separate United States Geological Survey satellite watched as the launch mission went horribly wrong. At 10:40 a.m. local time, the booster, a version of the Long March rocket, ignited well above the Earth’s surface.
At that point, it detonated violently, a series of loud and concussive explosions that set off shockwaves across the region.
Officials said the launch might have been an accident that the Chinese government is investigating.
“The launch was successful, but unfortunately the observation system was in orbit around the rocket and the booster blew up while it was flying in space,” said Wu Weiren, an official at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which runs the China space program.
China is the world’s second largest space power, after the United States.
Its space program has grown dramatically in recent years, in part, because of increased domestic investment. Chinese authorities, however, have faced criticism over their use of space technology as a proxy for domestic security and military operations.
Their Chinese payload contains spy satellites that collect signals from foreign satellites, monitor defense networks and operate ground radar. Experts say these satellites help China enforce surveillance of internet and communication capabilities of other countries, including in US-Pacific territory.
In recent years, China has moved increasingly toward military applications of space, including launching a ground station to monitor China’s northeast borders with North Korea and Russia. It also recently unveiled a five-story test center for hypersonic aircraft.