BEIJING — A joint Chinese-Brazilian environmental monitoring satellite launched Monday from northern China failed to enter orbit, state media and experts said, in a rare setback for the country's ambitious space program.
The satellite, meant to be a key tool in Brazil's efforts to control Amazon rainforest deforestation and to monitor its huge agribusiness sector, blasted off from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province on a Long March 4B rocket at 11:26 a.m. , Xinhua said.
"The rocket malfunctioned during the flight and the satellite failed to enter orbit," the state news agency quoted military sources as saying.
The satellite is known as CBERS-3 (China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite 3), or Ziyuan I-03 in Chinese. Ziyuan is the Chinese word for "resource."
In Brazil, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said in a statement that "there was a failure of the launcher during the flight and consequently the satellite was not positioned in the planned orbit."
"Preliminary evaluations suggest that the CBERS-3 returned to Earth."
The CBERS remote-sensing satellite program grew out of a bilateral partnership agreement signed in 1988.
The satellite is based on the Chinese Ziyuan 1 design but includes Brazilian-designed mission payload.
Three satellites of the series were launched in 1999, 2003, and 2007 aboard Chinese-made Long March rockets.
CBERS-3 was originally scheduled to be launched in 2009, but the launch date was repeatedly postponed. A CBERS-4 is scheduled to be launched in 2015.
China launched its first moon rover mission last week, the latest step in an ambitious space program which is seen as a symbol of its rising global stature.
The rover — known as Yutu, or Jade Rabbit — is due to land on the moon in mid-December.
China sees its space program as a symbol of its growing international status and technological advancement, as well as of the Communist Party's success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.
It aims to establish a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually send a human to the moon.
© AFP 2014