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Watching the launch of the Shenzhou-11 mission on a Long March 2F, I noticed a number of items falling off the exterior of the rocket. I'm used to seeing chunks of ice sheet coming off of cryogenic launchers, but Long March uses non-cryogenic hypergolic fuels, and the pieces were squared-off, clearly manufactured items. There were quite a few of them - at least 10 coming off the launcher in the first 20 seconds of flight. Here are a few screenshots showing the debris:

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I don't see any similar items coming off in this video of Shenzhou-9 or this one of Shenzhou-10.

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    $\begingroup$ I know Ariane 4 used thermal insulators during fueling and those are removed during launch (2/3 seconds after ignition). The pieces on the pictures look like insulation. More information can be found in the answer here: space.stackexchange.com/questions/2532/… $\endgroup$ – Gp2mv3 Oct 17 '16 at 14:06
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Those falling particles seem to be parts of a protective sheet that shields the opening around the interstage lattice between first and second stages. Only the Long Marches launched from Taiyuan and Jiuquan during colder times of the year have such cover.

The following are a few examples to illustrate the presence and absence of the sheet in different times of the year.

EDIT:

  • News reports suggest that those are insulation sheets that kept the rocket warm against cold winter.
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  • $\begingroup$ This seems plausible; do you have any citations or further information? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Feb 16 '17 at 5:00
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove The parts before the edit are primarily my observations. This is the best source I can find so far. Unfortunately, it is in Chinese. $\endgroup$ – Mys_721tx Feb 16 '17 at 5:14

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