Friday, 11 November 2016

Chinese CZ-11 rocket stage impacts Myanmar Jade quarry (updated)

On November 9 at 23:42 UT (November 10 in local time), China launched a Long March 11 (CZ-11) rocket from Jiuquan on a south-bound trajectory, lofting the XPNAV satellite into orbit.

The object (image from the Myanmar Times)

Shortly after this, an object came crashing out of the sky in Myanmar, impacting in a Jade quarry near Hmaw His Zar village near Hpakant in Kachin Province. Photographs of the object can be seen in the news stories here and  here. The image in the first link is the best in terms of showing shape and size.

The object is reportedly ~4 meter long and ~1.5 meter wide (reports differ slightly). In one of the images, it is clear that it is different in diameter at both ends, the shape being that of a barrel with a tapering segment on it.

Size and shape conforms to (what I assume is) the second stage of the CZ-11 (edit: might in fact be the 3rd stage), which is about ~4 meters long and about 2 meter diameter at one side, tapering to about 1.4 meter diameter at the other side. A drawing of the rocket's elements is here and another, perhaps more accurate rendering is here (the drawings differ somewhat, hence my confusion on whether this is the 2nd or 3rd stage. From the second rendering, it looks to be the 3rd rather than the 2nd stage).

Click map to enlarge

As can be seen in the map above, last Wednesday's Chinese launch trajectory lines up well with the reported location of the impact in Myanmar.  So it almost certainly is the 2nd (3rd?) stage of the CZ-11 rocket used for this launch.

[edit 12 Nov 2016: to be clear, the line on the map is a projection of the orbital plane of the XPNAV satellite at the moment of launch, as a proxy for the launch trajectory. You can see it lines up with both the Jiuquan launch location and the location where the object came down in Myanmar].

UPDATE: Jeffrey Lewis ("The Arms Control Wonk") pointed me to this Chinese CNTV footage about the recent launch that shows various parts of the CZ-11 rocket. From 0:35 onwards, one of the stages shown visually clearly is a match for the Myanmar objects:

Here are a few stills from the footage, compared to one of the images of the Myanmar object. The red semi-transparent boxes indicate which stage matches in terms of shape and details such as the round hole halfway the hull:

click to enlarge
(editted 12 Nov: added images and text, noted the 2nd/3rd stage potential confusion)

1 comment:

gregk5 said...

Excellent work. I was working on the same theory and searching on google and found this.

I live in in Yangon and have forwarded your ideas to a news agency here.