A Long March 3B (CZ-3B) rocket lifts off from the launch pad at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Sichuan Province of China. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

In a rare setback to China’s ambitious space program, the Communist giant’s first indigenous communications satellite for live radio and TV broadcasts failed to enter its preset orbit, June 19, writes K.J.M. Varma.

With a takeoff weight of more than five tons, Zhongxing-9A was launched from the southwest Xichang Satellite Launch Center, June 19.

Abnormal performance was identified during the third phase of the rocket launch, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The exact reason for the failure of Zhongxing-9A, launched from the Long March-3B carrier rocket at 12:11 AM, is under investigation and related parties are taking measures to address the problem and send the satellite into the correct orbit, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Zhongxing-9A is the first China-made satellite.

The solar panels and communication antennae, however, have been deployed and the satellite system is operating under normal conditions, CASC said.

The Long March-3B has been one of the main carrier rockets for China’s high-orbit launch missions.

Zhongxing-9A is the first China-made satellite for live radio and television broadcasts.