Chinese rocket falls to Earth, NASA says Beijing has not shared information

Spectators watch a Long March-5B Y3 rocket carrying the laboratory module of China’s Wentian space station lift off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on July 24, 2022 in China. China on Sunday launched one of two laboratory modules to complete its space station in permanent orbit.

Luo Yunfei | China News Service | Getty Images

A Chinese rocket fell back to Earth over the Indian Ocean on Saturday, but NASA said Beijing had not shared the “specific trajectory information” needed to know where any debris might fall.

US Space Command said the Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Indian Ocean around 12:45 p.m. EDT Saturday (1645 GMT), but referred questions on “technical aspects of re-entry such as potential location of the impact of the scattering of the debris” to China.

“All space nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” the NASA Administrator said. , Bill Nelson. “This is essential for the responsible use of space and for keeping people safe here on Earth.”

Social media users in Malaysia posted a video of what appeared to be rocket debris.

Aerospace Corp, a government-funded nonprofit research facility near Los Angeles, said it was unwise to allow the entire main stage of the rocket – which weighs 22.5 tonnes (approximately 48,500 pounds) – to return to Earth during an uncontrolled re-entry.

Earlier this week, analysts said the rocket body would disintegrate as it plunged through the atmosphere, but is large enough that many pieces are likely to survive a fiery re-entry to rain debris down on an area about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) long by about 70 km. (44 miles) wide.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. China said earlier this week it would closely monitor the debris, but said it posed little risk to anyone on the ground.

The Long March 5B lifted off on July 24 to deliver a laboratory module to China’s new space station under construction in orbit, marking the third flight of China’s most powerful rocket since its maiden launch in 2020.

Fragments of another Chinese Long March 5B landed in Ivory Coast in 2020, damaging several buildings in the West African country, although no injuries were reported.

By contrast, he said, the United States and most other space nations typically go to the extra expense of designing their rockets to avoid large, uncontrolled re-entries — a widely observed imperative since large chunks of the NASA Skylab space station fell from orbit in 1979 and landed in Australia.

Last year, NASA and others accused China of being opaque after the government in Beijing remained silent on the estimated trajectory of debris or the re-entry window for its final Long March rocket flight in May. 2021.

Debris from that flight ended up landing safely in the Indian Ocean.

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