PARIS — China’s launch-service provider on Dec. 10 said its Long March 4B rocket failure on Dec. 9 was caused by a third-stage malfunction of unspecified origin, resulting in the loss of the China-Brazil CBERS-3 Earth observation satellite.

Beijing-based China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC) said in a statement that the vehicle’s builder, the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, is investigating the failure.

The statement said China and Brazil are both confident that their longstanding partnership in space programs will continue.

The Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) said the CBERS-3 satellite, built mainly in Brazil, appeared to have been in good health as the rocket launched from China’s Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, but that it likely fell to Earth when the rocket failed.

“Preliminary indications are that the satellite has returned” to Earth, AEB said. “There was a malfunction of the launch vehicle.”

AEB said that China and Brazil nonetheless are determined to pursue the CBERS program, which began in 1999 with the launch of CBERS-1. CBERS-2 was launched in 2003, and CBERS-2B followed in 2007. Work on a CBERS-4 satellite would start immediately, AEB said.

The Long March 4B rocket debuted in 2009. It has launched 19 times since then, including the Dec. 9 launch.


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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.