Explained: Chinese UFO Crashes in Fiery Crater - Space Junk, Part of Rocket Motor

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Chinese Rocket Debris metabunk.jpg

Chinese media reports that on Dec 12th something crashed in Zhangjiabian village, Fugu New District, causing a fire and leaving a large crater. The object also left quite a bit of debris.

While "Alien Spacecraft" is always a popular explanation, the most likely thing is that this is some space junk, most likely the remains of a Chinese rocket. Particularly as the object had some very human looking numbers written on it.


A curious green substance was found at the site, described as "space rock"


ad0e8bfaa458454423e543673bd4c064.jpg


However it most closely resembles slag from a solid rocket booster, as seen in this NASA photo:

20161217-105500-7vm25.jpg

External Quote:
Solid rocket motor (SRM) slag. Aluminum oxide slag is a byproduct of SRMs. Orbital SRMs used to boost satellites into higher orbits are potentially a significant source of centimeter sized orbital debris. This piece was recovered from a test firing of a Shuttle solid rocket booster
Source:
https://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/photo-gallery.html

Here's a closeup of the main object found, the circular shape suggesting a rocket:
20161217-110406-2djci.jpg

Source: http://yl.hsw.cn/system/2016/1213/12725.shtml

The two linkages at right angles suggest hydraulic actuator attachment points used to tilt the nozzle for steering. For example (on a liquid rocket, but similar principle):
4798ae52991a90c2cd99527f832fbed5.jpg

Source: http://blogs.nasa.gov/J2X/tag/hydraulic-actuators/

Update: It is a nozzle connector ring, almost identical to one on this Chinese rocket motor:
https://www.chinaspaceflight.com/engine/SRB/2m-diameter.html

055a0d03d9b719c87882337f32646dd0.jpg


20161218-115214-6yo26-jpg.23497
 
Last edited:
The most recent OFFICIAL Chinese rocket launch I can find reference to was the first commercial launch of the Long March 5 rocket on November 3rd.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Long_March_launches
My Chinese is non existent so can't tell when the incident happened. But even if it's not from that launch it could be from launch on a military or other mission that Beijing isn't keen to publicise. Or even a missile test.

Edit -
There was a Long March 11 test flight on November 9th
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_March_11
 
Last edited:
Last edited:
There is a similarly looking part in the Japanese M-V rocket motor case:

Similar, but obviously not the same engine. You can see what I was saying with the steering actuator connection points
20161218-080719-c4ygq.jpg

And it does seem like it has been ripped out of something like the pressure vessel seen on the M-34 (third stage SRM for M-V rocket). So maybe something very similar.
 
Similar, but obviously not the same engine. You can see what I was saying with the steering actuator connection points
Yes, I have seen that. But what is really similar between the two parts is the same number (60) of bolted joints in the outer rim. There are 32 such joints in the inner rim of the Chinese crash piece, but there seems to be more of them in the Japanese motor.

Also, it seems to me that the sizes of two parts are similar as well. Could it be that the crash part came from a (Chinese?) copycatted version of the Japanese motor?
 
Last edited:
Similar type of thing on the STAR-48 engine


4c946a3c4d1bdf2b0378497c3ffd1b56.png


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_48
External Quote:

The most common use of the Star 48 was as the final stage of the Delta II launch vehicles. Other launchers have also incorporated the motor, but with lower frequency. In such usage, the complete stage (motor plus accessories) is referred to as the Payload Assist Module (PAM), as the Shuttle could only take satellites to low Earth orbit. Because geostationary orbit is much more lucrative, the additional stage was needed for the final leg of the journey. On such missions, the stage is spin-stabilized. A turntable, mounted in the shuttle payload bay or atop the previous Delta stage, spun the PAM and payload to approximately 60 rpm prior to release.

Usually after motor burnout and just prior to satellite release the PAM is de-spun using a yo-yo de-spin technique.

A non-spinning, thrust-vectoring version of the Star 48 is available ("Star 48BV"), but much less common. A thrust-vectoring Star 48 is the final stage of the Minotaur IV+ launch vehicle.
It seems like the Chinese part is thrust vectoring, the Saudi one is not.
 
The Saudi debris was actually for low earth orbit, a Delta 2 third stage PAM-D. If this part is similar then it could have come from any country.
 
And from quite a time range. The Saudi PAM-D had been in orbit for eight years!!
https://orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/quarterly-news/pdfs/odqnv6i2.pdf
External Quote:
After nearly eight years in orbit, a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module - Delta) upper stage reentered on 12 January 2001 with one main fragment being recovered in Saudi Arabia. The stage (US Satellite Number 22659, International Designator 1993-032C) along with a GPS spacecraft (USA-91) was launched 13 May 1993 and left in an orbit of 180 km by 20,340 km with an inclination of 34.9 degrees. The heart of the PAM-D is a STAR-48B solid rocket motor (SRM) manufactured by Thiokol Corporation. After burn-out the STAR-48B has a mass of about 130 kg, a length of 2.0 m, and a diameter of 1.2 m. The stage had been undergoing rapid catastrophic orbital decay since the first of the year, dropping from an orbit of 145 km by 800 km during the last week. The evening (~1900 local time) reentry over the sparsely populated desert was observed, and one large fragment was found about 240 km from the capital of Riyadh. The object, about 70 kg in mass, was the main titanium casing of the STAR-48B, although most of the phenolic nozzle had broken off or burned away. A Boeing part number was clearly visible on the casing, further substantiating the identification. This was the second known Delta stage to partially survive reentry in less than a year. On 27 April 2000 a Delta 2 second stage (US Satellite Number 23834, International Designator 1996- 019B), also from a GPS mission, reentered the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean. Three objects were recovered in South Africa after the event: a stainless steel propellant tank (~260 kg), a titanium pressurant sphere (33 kg), and a tapered cylinder (30 kg) which served as part of the main engine nozzle assembly. A propellant tank and pressurant sphere were found in very similar condition after the reentry of a Delta 2 second stage over Texas in January 1997 (Orbital Debris Quarterly News, Apr-Jun 1997).
 
A recent Chinese rocket:
20161218-112901-vpam7.jpg


(No steering linkages, but looks like it would have them)

d618fd8faf3db9426c79db2183c432ce.jpg


http://english.cri.cn/12394/2016/08/02/2743s936356.htm
External Quote:

China's largest solid-fuel rocket motor goes through test ignition on August 2, 2016, in the northwest city of Xi'an. [Photo: Sina Weibo of CCTV]

China has completed the test ignition of its largest solid-fuel rocket motor in the northwest city of Xi'an.

With a diameter of three meters, the solid-fuel rocket motor ran for 100 seconds after ignition.

The successfully tested technologies will be used in heavy-lift and large rockets for China's deep-space explorations and manned moon-landings.

Solid-fuel rocket engines have a much larger capacity than liquid-fueled iterations.

The development comes as China is scheduled to launch its largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, later this year.

The numbering scheme:
20161218-113142-e0j4l.jpg


Kind of resembles the numbers on the item:
20161218-113252-2bi3c.jpg
 
I found that doing a google search for 固体火箭发动机, the Chinese for "Solid Rocket Motor"
20161218-115214-6yo26-jpg.23497
There are four bolted joints in the top linkage instead of five in the bottom one. It is a very similar design, yet not the same. Perhaps, a different stage, or even a different rocket.

It is rather strange that the number is hand-written, not stencilled. Could be a part of a prototype motor, not the serial production.
 
There are four bolted joints in the top linkage instead of five in the bottom one. It is a very similar design, yet not the same. Perhaps, a different stage, or even a different rocket.

What you have there is just some heavy duty turnbuckles used to hold the cone in place for display purposes, not the actual steering linkages. I suspect there's a variety of interchangeable connectors using a varied number of bolts. On the debris there looks like there's one with two bolts in the bottom right.

It could be a knock-off, as you suggested earlier. Certainly very similar. The stories about the Chinese one seem to suggest it's still in testing.
 
This happened a month earlier:
External Quote:

Chinese rocket engine? Unidentified object falls from sky in Myanmar
https://www.rt.com/viral/366563-chinese-space-debris-object/
357d5a42faed171ae46dc8843383ac19.jpg


Source: https://twitter.com/FreeKachin/status/796563466630922240/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

It seems to be a similar design of steering linkages to that in post #11, but there are fewer bolted joints in between them. It appears to be the same CZ-11 rocket.

Edit:
It probably was one of the stages of the solid propellant rocket CZ-11 that carried out a successful satellite launch. There are more pictures here:
http://www.eastpendulum.com/lancement-satellite-xpnav-1-par-cz-11
2dec64dce6824ece712088f8569df8d5.jpg
 
Last edited:
20161218-113252-2bi3c-jpg.23495


I was thinking that says FG-98, but it could quite easily be FG-28, which is the designation of an actual SRM.
20161219-101630-bijm9.jpg
 
I was thinking that says FG-98, but it could quite easily be FG-28, which is the designation of an actual SRM.
20161219-101630-bijm9-jpg.23514
FG-28 looks rather small to be the source of the Chinese space junk. There is a photo of it along with other Chinese SRMs in the link in #15.

And while the rocket motor may well be Chinese, that does not mean the rocket itself was.
I doubt that the Chinese would export a rocket motor with a handwritten number on it.

As there were no recent launches, it is likely that the piece of space junk was a third stage of the rocket launched quite a while ago and fell down weeks or months (or even years) later. Currently, CZ-11 is the only Chinese solid propellant rocket tested with two successful launches on September 25, 2015 and November 9, 2016. Unfortunately, there are no known images of its third stage, apart of the launch animation for public broadcast.

And I favour the hypothesis of its being a knock-off of the Japanese motor, which case "was made of light and tough carbon fiber". Upon re-entry, such a case probably would burn nearly completely, leaving only the metal fixture for the nozzle, unlike quite a few "survived" motor cases made of metal.
 
Currently, CZ-11 is the only Chinese solid propellant rocket tested with two successful launches on September 25, 2015 and November 9, 2016. Unfortunately, there are no known images of its third stage, apart of the launch animation for public broadcast.

The german site identifies the 2m rocket as being using in the CZ-11
20161219-123520-sv0oy.jpg


And describes the "ZF9" (which I had though was the same rocket) as being 3m diameter,

20161219-123700-ufap9.jpg

which seems roughly accurate based on this guy being around 1.7m high.

20161219-124034-j9fay.jpg
 
Apparently by hand and rather unprofessionally.

Yeah, but there IS writing on it. And it does generally match the Chinese numbering scheme. So are you saying they would only write it on when they use them, but not when they export them? Or something else?
 
Last edited:
The german site identifies the 2m rocket as being using in the CZ-11
View attachment 23517
Yes, this look very similar to the (second) stage that fell in Myanmar, aka Burma.

And describes the "ZF9" (which I had though was the same rocket) as being 3m diameter,

View attachment 23518
which seems roughly accurate based on this guy being around 1.7m high.

View attachment 23519
This motor so far was tested on a stand on the ground, but yet to be launched in space.
 
Yeah, but there IS writing on it. And it does generally match the Chinese numbering scheme. So are you saying they would only write it on when they use them, but not when they export them? Or something else?
No, I mean that if the Chinese did it for export, they probably would engrave the number more professionally (and neatly) with using stencil or similar tool to have regular spaces between the characters and the same font for the same digits.
 
No, I mean that if the Chinese did it for export, they probably would engrave the number more professionally (and neatly) with using stencil or similar tool to have regular spaces between the characters and the same font for the same digits.
I don't think that's necessarily so. Here's a similar bit of text engraved by hand on the 2M motor at the exhibit.
20161219-134403-lzyxa.jpg


Also has the "FG-" prefix, and then maybe "103"?
 
Did anyone actually go to "alien space debris" with this? The markings are exactly what I'd expect on any flange expected to operate under immense pressure. ID#, size, engineered torque setting to be used on the bolts and size of bushing to be used.
 
Did anyone actually go to "alien space debris" with this? The markings are exactly what I'd expect on any flange expected to operate under immense pressure. ID#, size, engineered torque setting to be used on the bolts and size of bushing to be used.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peo...-object-falls-sky-leaving-burning-crater.html
External Quote:

Could it be a part of a UFO? Villagers are left baffled after a mysterious object fell from the sky leaving a burning crater
  • Villagers in north-west China said they saw an object falling rapidly on Monday
  • The object apparently landed with a loud bang and a crater was found burning
  • No object had been spotted in the hole, but police have found objects nearby
  • Web users are guessing what the object could be, with some suggesting UFO

http://www.disclose.tv/news/shockin...china_leaving_mysterious_debris_behind/137010
External Quote:
SHOCKING! BIZARRE UFO CRASHED IN CHINA LEAVING MYSTERIOUS DEBRIS BEHIND!
2579348e80a83de3d11fa814cf39ce93.jpg
 
Back
Top