Chinese booster rocket returns uncontrollably to Earth

A Chinese booster rocket made an uncontrolled return to Earth on Saturday, prompting US officials to reprimand Beijing for not sharing information about the potentially dangerous object’s descent.

The US Space Command “can confirm that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approximately 10:45 a.m. MDT on July 30,” the US military unit said on Twitter.

“We refer you to #PRC for more details on the technical aspects of re-entry, such as potential debris dispersal + impact location,” he said.

In a statement posted on its official WeChat profile, China’s Manned Space Agency later gave the coordinates of an impact area in the Sulu Sea, about 35 miles (57 kilometers) off the east coast of the Philippines’ Palawan Island. .

“Most of its devices were ablated and destroyed during re-entry,” the agency said of the booster rocket, which was used last Sunday 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 on re-entry before falling into the Sulu Sea, northeast of the island of Borneo.

“The rocket debris ignited as it entered 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,” said.

– NASA criticism –

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson criticized Beijing on Twitter, saying that not sharing 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 enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy vehicles, such as 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 ensuring 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 carried robotic vehicles to Mars and the Moon, and made China the third nation to put humans into orbit.

The new module, powered by the Long March 5B, successfully docked with the Tiangong core module on Monday, and the three astronauts who had lived in the main compartment since June successfully entered the new laboratory.

When China launched its first Tiangong module in April 2021, there was a similar frenzy around the possibility of damage from unpredictable booster re-entry.

Objects generate immense amounts of heat and friction when they enter the atmosphere, which can cause them to burn up and disintegrate. But the larger ones, like the Long March-5B, may not be completely destroyed.

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 spaceflight and exploration as it seeks to build a program that reflects its stature as a rising global power.


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