China's launch of a new heavy-lift rocket, the Long March-5 Y2, carrying its heaviest ever satellite, failed yesterday, according to official news agency Xinhua.
The failure of the type of rocket that was expected to launch China's latest lunar probe to the moon this year and return with samples is likely to affect the timetable for that mission according to commentators.
President Xi Jinping had accorded advancing China's space programme to strengthen national security and defence the highest priority. The government had also stressed that it was a purely peaceful initiative.
"An anomaly occurred during the flight of the rocket," Xinhua said after the rocket blasted off early evening from the southern island province of Hainan.
"Further investigation will be carried out," it said, without elaborating.
China's space programme had progressed without major reverses, but it way behind the US and Russia.
In late 2013, China's Jade Rabbit moon rover made a successful landing on the moon to national acclaim, but ran into technical difficulties.
According to the US Defence Department, China's increasing space capabilities were aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis.
Meanwhile, according to Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China's space programme, the launch failure meant further delay for a series of planned Chinese space endeavours - including its robotic and eventual human lunar programmes.
''With the LM-5 being new technology, the failure points out that rocket science is extremely difficult and why more countries don't have the technology,'' Fox5s quoted her as saying.
Prior to the failed launch attempt, Johnson-Freese said the rocket would give China ''heavy lift capabilities'' needed to develop a large space station as also new capabilities to reach interplanetary destinations.