BEIJING — A rain of flaming wreckage from a Chinese rocket that blew up during a satellite launch killed six people and injured 23, deepening China's trauma over its worst space disaster.
The spectacular explosion at dawn Thursday already had cast a pall over China's biggest holiday, the lunar New Year festival that begins Tuesday, and shocked space officials hoping to snare a bigger slice of the world launch market.
The public was not told until late Saturday that the nationally televised disaster had also been deadly.
The official New China News Agency's delayed reporting of the deaths likely reflected acute official anxiety about the timing of the disclosure on the eve of the New Year holiday.
The news agency said blazing wreckage of the powerful Long March 2E rocket and the advanced Apstar 2 telecommunications satellite it was carrying killed six people within four miles of the Xichang space center in southern Sichuan province.
It said falling debris also injured 23 people, probably peasants living near Xichang.