China’s booster rocket debris drops over Sulu Sea
Malaysia’s space agency said it detected rocket debris burning up on reentry before falling in the Sulu Sea northeast of the island of Borneo
WASHINGTON, United States — A Chinese booster rocket made an uncontrolled return to Earth last Saturday, leading United States officials to chide Beijing for not sharing information about the potentially hazardous object’s descent.
US Space Command “can confirm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) reentered over the Indian Ocean at approximately 10:45 a.m. MDT on 7/30,” the US military unit said on Twitter.
“We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the reentry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal + impact location,” it said.
In a statement posted to its official WeChat profile, the China Manned Space Agency later gave coordinates for an impact area in the Sulu Sea, about 57 kilometers off the east coast of Palawan.
“Most of its devices were ablated and destroyed during reentry,” the agency said of the booster rocket, which was used last Sunday, 24 July, to launch the second of three modules China needed to complete its new Tiangong space station.
Malaysia’s space agency said it detected rocket debris burning up on reentry before falling in the Sulu Sea northeast of the island of Borneo.
“The debris of the rocket caught fire while entering the Earth’s airspace and the movement of the burning debris also crossed Malaysian airspace and could be detected in several areas, including crossing the airspace around the state of Sarawak,” it said.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson criticized Beijing on Twitter, saying the failure to share details of the rocket’s descent was irresponsible and risky.
“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance,” Nelson wrote, “to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property.”
He added: “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth.”
The Tiangong space station is one of the crown jewels of Beijing’s ambitious space program, which has landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, and made China only the third nation to put humans in orbit.
The new module, propelled by the Long March 5B, successfully docked with Tiangong’s core module on Monday, 25 July, and the three astronauts who had been living in the main compartment since June successfully entered the new lab.
When China launched its first Tiangong module in April 2021, there was a similar frenzy around the possibility of damage caused by an unpredictable booster reentry.
In 2020, debris from another Chinese rocket fell on villages in the Ivory Coast, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths.
China has poured billions of dollars into space flight and exploration as it seeks to build a program that reflects its stature as a rising global power.
Read more Daily Tribune stories at: https://tribune.net.ph/
Follow us on social media