top of page

A fatal accident at Xichang

The launch of an American satellite on a Chinese rocket from Xichang China killed up to 500 civilians. Since Xichang is a mountainous region, no sea turtles were likely killed but disputed number of people were. The case was fully described in a Discovery Channel documentary and in greater detail at and in excruciating detail at We've included links to those sources below.

Aside from being a significant space launch disaster , this particular accident should be of particular interest to residents of Camden County.  Every space launch is by definition 'a test launch.' This is because each launch is the first time that exact assembly of components has ever been fired. Space-X suffered two failures in the past 12 months and Orbital Sciences had the massive Antares explosion on launch from Wallops Island, Virginia in October 2014. The Challenger exploded on the 25th Space Shuttle mission. Essentially, every launch is an experiment of at least some of its parts.


In the Xichang catastrophe, before the rocket had even cleared the support tower, it veered into a horizontal flight path near the ground and more than 30 degrees off course, traeling for 22 seconds before crashing into a residential area. 
Xichang was in a very remote part of China and the rocket crashed into the side of a mountain. The direct explosion did not kill the people, rather the shock wave collapsed buildings across the valley at 3am. Had an accident like Xichang happened from Spaceport Camden, Brunswick, Kings Bay Naval Base, St. Marys, and Fernandina were all within the same impact distance. The Xichang rocket should have been destroyed by flight controllers within a few seconds of launch when they knew something was wrong, but someone made a bad decision, or the self-destruct system did not work as expected, and the errant launch continued until the crash. 

Space launches are tricky and potentially dangerous things. They should be conducted where a civilian catastrophe cannot happen, even if the ‘impossible’ sequence of events happens.  And contrary to some expert opinions, however rare, they have happened. That  is why everywhere else in the US, vertical launch spaceports have been located directly adjacent to the ocean or on tens of thousands of unoccupied acres. That is also why launches are quickly directed away from the launch pad - so that a failure does its damage where less harm can occur. Those descriptions do not seem to apply to the Camden site.

What is the maximum distance and radius from the launch pad that might be damaged by any rocket that could be launched from Spaceport Camden?


What does the US Navy have to say about the risk to submarines and weapons at Kings Bay Submarine Base?


Has the Navy approved the proximity of the Spaceport?

How many seconds does it take a rocket to travel from the Spaceport to Kings Bay?


What are the allowable launch deviations before an order is absolutely executed to destroy an errant rocket and who makes the decision to abort a launched rocket? Is it sometimes just a judgement call?


Are there redundant abort systems?


Will the new Georgia Spaceflight Act require the State to reimburse every dollar lost by a citizen who is harmed or killed in the course of a normal launch or accident that is beyond the limits set in the legislation? 


As the Spaceport owner, can Camden County be held legally responsible if the Spaceport operator is negligent and people or property are harmed?


Will Camden County's or individual property owner's liability or property insurance rates increase?


Submit your Question:

Name *

Email *

Safety Question

Success! Message received.

bottom of page