Watch: Chinese rocket catches fire after accidental launch, causing massive explosion

Pioneer Space said teams were running a hot fire test when a structural failure between the rocket body, and the test bench allowed the rocket to lift off from the launchpad.

Chinese company Space Pioneer said its Tianlong-3 rocket experienced an unplanned liftoff on Monday, ending in an explosion near Gongyi.

Reuters obtained video from Chinese media showing the massive exhaust plume from the launch and the rocket careening into the sky before it began falling to Earth. The rocket's engines are on fire as it falls, and when it hits the ground in a forested area, a large explosion can be seen for miles. 

Space Pioneer, also known as Beijing Tianbing Technology Co., said teams were running an engine hot fire when the failure occurred. During a hot fire test, the rocket engines start up, but the vehicle normally remains attached to the launch tower. A structural failure between the rocket body and the test bench allowed the rocket to lift off from the launchpad, according to Space Pioneer.

After liftoff, the onboard rocket computer shut down the engines, causing the Tianlong-3 rocket to fall. 

The company said the rocket body fell about 1 mile southwest of the test site. 

The accidental launch happened near an 800,000-person population in the province of Henan. Space Pioneer said that after an investigation, no causalities were found. 

The company said it worked with the local government to improve "safety measures and organize the evacuation of surrounding personnel in advance."

Space Pioneer said it is developing the Tianlong-3 rocket to compete with SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket. 

Google Translate was used for the reporting in this article.